PFLAG Hears Pastor's Message-All Really Means All
On August 5th Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG ),Hinsdale , welcomed Don Niswonger, Parish Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church of Naperville.
Pastor Don came to speak about his recent sermon on the churches need to welcome the gay community and the support group, “Lead With Love”, he started as spiritual leader and father of a gay son .
Niswonger was raised as a Southern Baptist in Missouri and grew up in “that culture of the radically homophobic and biblical literalism”. He received degrees from Baylor University in Texas, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina and Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Through his faith and life experience, he was “led out of literalism to a more open mind.” Niswonger lost his son, Scott, at the age of 36. “I think of him every day and thank him for his gift of being a gay person.” He spoke of his and many parents experience when their faith collides with their reality. The discrepancy with what the Bible supposedly says and what you know to be true when your child is gay defies reconciliation.
Niswonger said that in the institutional Church there is a great struggle going on with the literal interpretation of the Bible. There are “only six references in the bible (to homosexuality). All of which I believe are irrelevant.”… “The early church had no concept our modern understanding of sexuality.”… “There is no sexual ethic set forth in the bible to declare homosexuality a sin.” said Niswonger. Furthermore Jesus was silent on the issue but “He was not silent regarding compassion. He would have sided with those whose sexual orientation was same sex.”… “The Gospel is always an offense against marginalization.”
Though Pastor Don was open about his gay son and did not allow pejoratives against GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual , transgender) persons, he did not preach it from the pulpit. He struggled with “coming out of the closet of his silence from the pulpit” then on July 1, 2012 he decided to “Declare what I believe is the gospel of Jesus to include GLBT people in our church” and he delivered his sermon titled “All Means All”.
Niswonger said Jesus taught, “You are to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind and your neighbor as yourself. How does that compute with the way the Church treats GLBT People. It is simply wrong”
“One out of five families has GLBT children or other relatives. The community is right here. You may not know it because of fear but they are here.” With this in mind Pastor Don and his wife started the group “Lead With Love” which meets in their home monthly. Within six months they had 30 people join this group which has “created an environment of hospitality and radical acceptance.”
“Sexuality is not a choice, it is a gift from God to be celebrated.” Said Niswonger, and he reminded us that “Jesus commanded us to openly and unequivocally love.”