The Grand Rapids Press reports…
“Daniel VanderLey’s protest Sunday of a West Michigan pastor who recently compared coming out as gay to coming out as an ax murderer was anything but frosty on a cool morning.
One woman donated coffee and another briefly paused her morning jog to chat and give him a hug. About 10 others joined VanderLey on the sidewalk across from the First Baptist Church of Zeeland, holding signs in support of marriage equality.
It’s the sort of message VanderLey hoped would be expressed following a March 1 sermon by Pastor Clint Echols, who lectured that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. The clergyman continued, saying one’s “internal compass” could be used to discover their sexuality at any moment.
Furthermore, the compass on another day could read that person is an ax murderer.
“Love is stronger than hate, and … we should love because hate hurts,” VanderLey said. The Detroit resident once lived in the area and attended the church growing up.
“Most of the community is very accepting, definitely not excluding others and so for that reason, Zeeland is a very warm and loving area … we’re very appreciative of that.”
Former Michigan state Rep. Lorence Wenke, R-Kalamazoo, perhaps had the largest sign at the demonstration. It read: “Equal Justice Under Law.” His sign, however, was just one compared to many VanderLey set up along the church’s sidewalk to show photos of people beaten because of their sexuality — they were not difficult to miss.
A few signs had been toppled over at some point during the morning.
Wenke readily admits his views toward gay people have evolved through the years, largely because one of his best friends from grade school came out as an adult about 15 years ago.
Both attended the same Christian school, the same church and each other’s parents were friends. Once Wenke’s friend married his partner in Canada, he told himself he needed to learn and understand being gay better than what he’d been told.
When the Supreme Court ultimately decides the gay marriage issue later this spring or early summer, Wenke believes it’ll side with the wording engraved on its building: equal justice under law.
“Pastors, like the pastor of church, will always be able to say what they want to,” Wenke said. “None of us want to tell pastors — and my son is a pastor — what they should say from the pulpit, but we certainly don’t want their misinterpretation of their scripture to become the law of the land.”
A man who identified himself as a church administrator provided a typed statement.
“Protestors demonstrating outside of our church do not represent our church in any way. They are not from our church, nor are they acting on our behalf. They are responsible for the content of their own message,” it reads in part.
“With malice toward none, but charity toward all, First Baptist Church of Zeeland seeks to teach the unchanging truths of God’s word.”
Holland resident Bob Cramer, a parishioner, explained Echols’ sermon was meant to clarify the church’s stance on homosexuality and marriage between one man and one woman. An amendment to confirm the position recently was proposed to the congregation’s constitution.
Several churchgoers declined to comment on VanderLey’s signs and demonstration.
Cramer did not recall any reference to ax murders in Echols’ sermon.
“Our church loves everybody … but a sin is a sin, we all have them,” he said.”