Dear Mr. Cathy,
I don’t expect you to remember me. You and your father spoke at chapel during my freshman year of college in 2000. You both spoke of how being a Christian business person involves loving your neighbor and serving God and your customers faithfully. Since I had recently received an award from the college I was invited to attend a small group discussion with you and some of the college trustees. At that time I was impressed by your compassion, faithfulness, and good humor. Even though I do not eat at your establishment because I am a vegetarian, I have always spoken highly of you, your father, and your restaurant based on those initial experiences.
Since that day in chapel I have served as a minister in local Baptist churches, attended seminary, became ordained, and earned a Ph.D. in religion. I am now the pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina. I have committed my life and vocation to scholarship and ministry, faithfully translating and interpreting scripture and seeking to live as Jesus taught.
Imagine my disappointment when you recently made a public statement against gay marriage. You see, in addition to faithfully serving the local church as an ordained Baptist minister for the past twelve years, I am also in a committed relationship with a woman. My partner is professor of Christian and family ethics at a local university. We are currently working to expand our little household by adopting a child, something that I know is dear to the heart of your family. Based on our vocations and callings, it is clear that Christian and family values are very important to us.
So, I simply want to ask why you think it is so important for us not to get married? Do we not deserve the same rights as you and your family? Are we not also your neighbors? You see, I could understand if you simply have a theological problem with gay marriage. Unfortunately, many Christians feel this way. I do not interpret scripture or the message of Jesus in this manner, but I respect the freedom of your conscience to do so. What I don’t understand is why your theological stance should impact citizens in our country from receiving the same rights that you and your wife receive as a married couple.
Did you know that, upon marriage, couples are granted over one thousand rights and privileges by the government? Examples include the right to file joint taxes, the right to receive a deceased spouse’s social security, employee benefits for federal workers, COBRA, and many more. Why do my partner and I not deserve these rights? Our relationship is committed and covenantal. We both work hard. We are citizens and Christians just like you and your wife. But because we cannot legally marry, we do not get to enjoy these 1,000+ rights. It is also worth noting that extending these rights to same-sex couples would not take your rights in any way.
I am not asking you to change your theological position on marriage. I disagree with you and I do not think that your stance is a faithful interpretation of scripture, but I respect your right to your beliefs. What I ask is that you remember what you preached about when you spoke at chapel twelve years ago. I ask you to consider what it means to love your neighbors. Some of your neighbors are LGBT and you have made it clear that your political position entails withholding over one thousand federal rights from these neighbors. What do you think Jesus would say about that, Mr. Cathy?
If you’re interested, the church I pastor is Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University; you’re welcome to worship with us if you’re ever in town. We are the only Baptist church in the country with two lesbians as head pastors. I serve a diverse congregation; many of our members are LGBT families raising children. And I refuse to look into their eyes and tell them that their families do not deserve the same rights as your family. For me, that is unethical. It is un-American. And it is unchristian. I ask that you thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the magnitude of the statements you have made and ask yourself and your company: what does it mean for us to love our neighbors?
With Hope and Peace,
A Concerned Baptist Minister
Rev. Dr. Angela M. Yarber
Pastor for Preaching and Worship
Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University
To learn more about Angela, visit her website.