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FAYETTEVILLE: When an LGBT ordinance comes to town

EDITOR’S NOTE: Douglas Falknor is pastor of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ark.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BP) — Although I have been in the ministry nearly 30 years, the Fayetteville ordinance promoting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda was the first time I felt the need to oppose the local government to stop an action they had taken.

On Dec. 9, Fayetteville voters successfully repealed the ordinance, which the city council had enacted on Aug. 19. While I will be glad for this issue never to occur again, a few lessons have been learned along the way:

Work with others.

From the first days that this ordinance was proposed, many people expressed a desire to stop it from going into effect. I was asked to host a gathering of interested people to discuss what steps could be taken. Leading this meeting was akin to herding cats with so many emotions and ideas from so many different leaders, but it was important to begin the organizational process. While this initial meeting was comprised mostly of pastors and other church leaders, successfully repealing the ordinance required broadening the base of active opposition to include business owners and others from the community.

Recognize the important role of activists.

Some people are comfortable — even energized — by the role of activist. I am not. Activists sometimes make me uncomfortable. However, successfully overturning bad laws requires someone who will spend hours tirelessly making phone calls, strategizing, knocking on doors and encouraging others. Activists often need us non-activists to keep them more balanced, but we need them to beat the drum for change.

Money is helpful; people are essential.

In Fayetteville, the supporters of the ordinance received over $190,000 in donations (including “non-money contributions”) while opponents received $35,000. The difference, however, was the broad-based support for repealing the law. People from every part of the city spoke out in the city council meeting, gathered signatures for the petition, put out signs for repeal, and, most importantly, voted.

Lead in your own church family.

As a pastor, I spoke for repeal of the ordinance during worship services, addressed the ordinance in newsletter articles, and emailed the church family a reminder to vote. Churches, especially pastors, need to remember their responsibility to lead in moral and religious freedom issues. Our words must be gracious and compassionate, but they must also be clear and biblical.

Stay focused on your purpose.

It is tempting to focus all of our energy on stopping a bad law and bringing change through political activism. As important as that work may be, we remain focused on our mission of changing lives by proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Elections will be won and lost. Bad laws could negatively impact us and religious freedoms may be lost. But we will continue to declare “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and “whoever believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 1:14; 3:16).