We need to come together


To The Editor:
We are so proud of the tenacity of Father Betancourt and members of the Holy Innocents parish in Halcottsville. Only by speaking out can progress be made in the effort to attain membership in the Interfaith Council. Holy Innocents Church welcomed us in 2011 when the Methodist national policy would not allow same-sex marriage after New York State law legalized marriage equality. However, in our search for a new church, we encountered Father Paul Catena of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, who lashed out against Holy Innocents because they “aren’t really catholic” and “they are the gay church: Christ would never accept those people.”

Other pastors in the area supported this obvious prejudice by their aura of silence on the issue. In this case silence equals a “no” vote. Reverend Dykstra of Roxbury’s Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church has been silent or noncommittal on the issue of inclusion for 12 years, much to the consternation of the gay members of his own church. In truth, there are outstanding gay citizens in almost every house of worship in the area, not just what Father Catena has labeled the “Gay Church” in Halcottsville.

Only Rev. Larry Dunlap of the Margaretville Methodist Church has made a concerted effort to include Father Betancourt in the community of churches by inviting him to share the pulpit for the UMC Thanksgiving service. In other words, when Christ welcomes all people to the Christian faith, including beggars and prostitutes and lepers and criminals, Father Paul excludes some Christians because of sexual orientation? Did he forget that Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church had its own sexual scandal not so long ago? No member of Holy Innocents was ever arrested for sexual abuse of children!

Let me get this right. Father Paul would exclude the straight people from Holy Innocents (who far outnumber the gay members), and labels us all unfit for membership in the Interfaith Council. Is there nothing inherent in the name, “Interfaith?”  Perhaps he would rename the group, the Interfaith-Except-for-Holy-Innocents Council. There is only one word for this prejudiced behavior: Hypocritical. Surely the more enlightened members of the council will finally speak out and end this injustice.

Holy Innocents has participated in distributing food and clothing before and after Hurricane Irene, and will continue to serve the entire mountain community with charitable efforts. All are welcome in the church membership, receiving the Eucharist, and in the pulpit, including people of color, women, gay people, straight people, married people; we willingly share our worship with Jews, Muslims and Christians from other houses of worship. Father Paul forgets that there have been numerous branches and offshoots from the original Christian church through the ages, including Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, High Episcopal, Holy Innocent’s own CACINA, not to mention every Protestant church in existence: we all started with Christ, who was a Jew, not a Roman Catholic. Who has given Father Paul the right to assume that Roman Catholics are the only authorized faith? I doubt if Jesus Christ would agree with him. I believe that Christ would welcome all the faithful, and praise Father Betancourt’s efforts to include all faiths in the Interfaith Council.

There is no room for this kind of division in our wonderful mountain community. We salute people like lawyer Carey Wagner and Rev. Larry Dunlap for speaking out against the Interfaith Council’s policy of bigotry and exclusion, and we are proud that they are acting on their strong sense of morals and justice. We urge all citizens to back the effort to allow membership to all who want to be a part of the Interfaith Council. Enough already! Surely our community can come together and act like enlightened adults.

Jack Stewart and Don McGee,
(Married on August 27, 2011 in Holy Innocents Apostolic Catholic Church)