An Ontario church says a woman in a same-sex relationship who was removed as one of its members is still allowed to attend services.
As Global News reported on Tuesday, Kimberley Mills, who said she has been attending the Calvary Baptist Church in Oshawa regularly for around four years and served as a youth leader, has been involved with her partner for some time. Mills recently spoke about her relationship with members of the congregation during a roundtable.
To her surprise, Mills said she received a registered letter from the church on Monday. The letter from Deacon Chairman Dr. Tim Wagner and dated on Oct. 30, said Mills was “removed from the membership” because she has “chosen to live in disobedience to the scriptures.” It cited church policy and biblical passages in the reasoning.
“It was brought to our attention that you have chosen to live in disobedience to the scriptures, specifically disregarding the warning of 1 Corinthians 6:9, in spite of repeated efforts by other believers in your life,” the letter said.
“Kim, we are exercising our responsibilities to follow the biblical instructions toward the goal of your repentance and full restoration to your walk with Christ and his church fellowship … Please know that this was not entered into lightly and we pray for your full restoration.”
Mills told Global News on Tuesday she was “shocked” by the decision.
“Why didn’t somebody come to my home? Why didn’t they request to have this conversation in person? So yeah, I was a little hurt I received this in the mail,” she said.
When asked about how Mills interpreted the church was praying for her “full restoration,” she said she takes it as she should “pray the gay away.”
“I think in their minds, me being with a woman is not acceptable and that until I make other life choices, I’m not welcome as a member,” Mills said.
Global News contacted the church multiple times on Tuesday and Wednesday for comment on the matter. However, late Wednesday afternoon, a statement from the church was sent to Global News. The statement said membership matters are “private and personal” and wouldn’t address those concerns publicly. It said the church ministers “to everybody and anybody.”
“We love and care for everyone since we are made in the image of God,” the statement said.
“Our membership, however, is a voluntary association of like-minded individuals who share a commitment to the teachings of the bible.”
The statement said reports of “a former member from attending our service because of their choices and conduct” are “incorrect,” adding that all are invited to attend Sunday services. It goes on to say members “share our theological and doctrinal beliefs and agree to live in accordance with those beliefs.”
“When an individual ceases to hold those beliefs or live in accordance with them, as has recently happened, that individual may be removed from membership but always remains welcome to attend our services and other programs,” the statement said.
Global News spoke with Mills earlier on Wednesday before receiving the statement. She said she has been “overwhelmed” by support from the community since her story was published and has found a new religious home.
“I’m definitely not alone and I’m amazed at all the people reaching out and sharing their stories … I can’t keep up with people reaching out to me,” Mills said.
“A lot of people are sharing their stories of hurt and things that they’ve experienced and I think that this is kind of what’s coming out of it.”
Mills said she feels the decision to remove her as a member is “against what Christianity should be about.” She said she hopes this whole incident lets people know they are not alone.
“It’s only making me stronger and standing up for what I believe,” Mills said.
“I really do hope that this is giving other people courage, not just in Calvary, but in other churches that are afraid to say, ‘It’s OK. You’re loved.'”
In another positive development, Mills said she has found a new church to attend. On Sunday, she will become the newest member of the Westminster United Church in Whitby.
“They were so open and welcoming. They told me to come as I am,” Mills said.
“God loves me for who I am, and I don’t need to change who I am to attend a church and be loved by the family.”
Michelle Robinson, a reverend at Westminster United Church, said she spoke with Mills before the initial story was published. She said she is happy to welcome Mills to her congregation.
“We’re just a diverse community that celebrates that diversity and tries to live it out,” Robinson explained.
“[Mills] is welcome fully as she is to be a part of our community and to offer her gifts here.”
Robinson said she didn’t want to discuss another church’s policies when asked about the controversy, instead, noting her congregation is one of affirmation for the LGBTQ community — and all people.
“We really try and follow the way that we believe Jesus taught: to be loving of God and of neighbour,” she said.
“Some people are really concerned about being right and some are concerned about being loving, and we really try to be loving.”
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