The following letter was written by a friend of my friend Shawn, who died last month. It speaks for itself, and says something about the problems Christians sometimes create through judgmentalism, and fear of being defiled by "the unbelieving," and those who do not live up to our lifestyle expectations.
You don't know me and I have never been to your church. I knew Shawn Poirier since we were teenagers and I remember his zeal for church. I used to sleep over his house and we would pray all night. I remember earnestly studying the Bible with him, going on retreats, worshiping together in church.
I also remember the way church people judged Shawn and his family, spread lies about him, talked behind his back and accused him of things that were not true. I remember walking into a church with Shawn and watching as the minister stopped his sermon and then announced that "a spirit of homosexuality" had just walked into the room. Shawn was crushed. I remember watching him try again and again to find community, acceptance and love in church....all to no avail. The church really poured on the fire after he became a witch but I made it a point to publicly give him a hug and tell him that he would always be my friend. This would freak out my family but I felt that it was important that Shawn know that not every church person was judging him. I attended Shawn's wake but had to leave early. I was sad not to see church people there, but I tried to brush off my feelings. Imagine my shock when that Sunday I heard a pastor publicly preach that Shawn was in hell and standing naked before an angry god. This was coming from one of the churches that had hurt Shawn. I was furious and distraught. I watched Shawn get publicly rebuked in life...I was not about to watch it happen in death, when his family was in pain. I made sure to write a letter to the pastor right then and there and I handed it to him and told him to read it before he preached his next sermon. (It was at Christian (name of church)... in New Bedford at the first of what are 3 morning services)
I wrote to Christian Day expressing my deep hurt that Shawn had died, my anger that Shawn's name was being mentioned publicly and requesting his family's decision as to how I should handle this. In my mind a public response was necessary. But Christian Day....showing incredible tolerance, grace and maturity suggested that I let it roll off of me and not let it take up my energy. He gave me the link to your church and told me shortly how you were of great assistance during this time. I wanted to therefore send you a note of thanks, that a pastor, instead of judging actually stood up and was a blessing during this time.
I can't thank you enough. You don't know me but I wanted to tell you that I appreciated your response after Shawn's death and I know that God is pleased. May God enlarge your voice so that others can hear the words of Jesus instead of the taunts of the Pharisees.
Like Stephen I wanted to fully publish the name of the church, but for the sake of exhibiting God's grace I have not. Stephen, thank you for having been a long time friend of my friend.