We continue to get mail about Sarah Edwards’s story from November about Pioneers Durham, the homophobic Methodist church-slash-coffee shop-coworking space that opened last week on Geer Street. In our paper last week, we published a letter from Julia Webb Bowden, a pastor at Elizabeth Street United Methodist Church, which is located about a half mile away from Pioneers Durham. Bowden notes that all are welcome at her church, but one reader, Brandon Dorn, found Bowden’s letter to be somewhat self-serving.

Dorn writes to Bowden:

As a Christian in Durham following news about Pioneers Church, I was interested to read a local pastor’s perspective when I saw your piece in the Indy. I was hoping to find something that furthered the conversation in a helpful way, so was disappointed to instead read what essentially amounted to a free advertisement for ESUMC.

Instead of using the open letter as an opportunity for dialogue with Sherei and others from Pioneers, or even using it as a moment of public instruction on differing theologies of same-sex marriage, you instead used your piece to signal the virtues of ESUMC. In fact, you don’t even mention Pioneers once, beyond the first sentence, and implicitly make them out to be a judgmental, homophobic community as you extol ESUMC under the guise of “telling your story.”

Ultimately, your piece just adds to the noise surrounding the topic. Instead of seeking dialogue or reconciliation, you publicly communicate a clear division, as though winning denominational turf wars and increasing church attendance were more important than showing nonbelievers what it looks like to love people who hold different views. What disappointed me most about the piece, I think, is that it contributed to the perception that the church is mostly concerned with judgment. Your piece joins in on the culture wars and divisions at play in our nation rather than seeking a way to transcend them.

I’m not defending Pioneers’ position or the things Sherei or others have said. I have no connection to them. And I’m personally not sure where I stand on the topic of same-sex marriage—it is something I am actively reading and thinking about. So I write this to you not to condemn your position, much less your congregation or the work that ESUMC is doing in the community, but rather in hopes of encountering better dialogue on a complex topic.

Is the topic really that complex, though? We don’t think so.

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