An open letter to the community of Three Rivers from First Presbyterian Church Three Rivers/Centreville

Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted to Watershed Voice for publication by Rev. Brenda Deily of The First Presbyterian Church Three Rivers/Centreville.

As a faith community in Three Rivers that believes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ instructs us to celebrate the inherent and sacred dignity and worth of all people, we are compelled to write to you in opposition of and to respond to the gross misrepresentation of the LGBTQ+ community in the recent invitation to a ‘prayer event’ on Friday evening, June 23rd

We reject and refute the information distributed for the following reasons:

  • The purpose and focus of the Three Rivers Pride Festival is seriously misrepresented. The festival celebrates diversity, acceptance, and equality within our community with a day filled with games, activities, music, and food. Pride events promote awareness of human rights, allows LGBTQ+ individuals to feel the freedom to gather in public spaces where they often feel excluded and to reclaim the right and the freedom to be who they are created to be, which are God given rights for all people. 
  • This event is open and optional for all people. It has not in any way been targeted or focused on children. Parents typically have discretion of where their children go and when, along with activities in which they participate.
  • The Pride flag is not forced on anyone. The Pride flag is designed to represent the diversity of the whole community and does not represent pedophilia. 
  • There is no statistical evidence that the LGBTQ+ community is in any way more likely to be pedophiles as the invitation strongly suggests. 
  • Our tax dollars are not contributing to the Pride Festival.. The Festival receives $0 from taxes.
  • Making unfounded statements in the guise of religion plays into people’s fears and prejudice and fosters an attitude of anger at a group for ‘righteous’ purposes and can lead to violence. NO ONE should be afraid to celebrate and express their identity in their own community. 

We are deeply disturbed that the invitation to the ‘prayer event’ implies that all Christians agree with these blatantly false understandings. While we understand there are differences of opinion, we follow the Way, The Truth, and the Life and we choose not to be associated with false statements, especially those that can be used to foster fear or anger against vulnerable people. 

As people of faith and moral conviction, we have a Gospel imperative to speak up and speak out in support of all of God’s people, especially those who are marginalized in their own community. We are called to work against systems of oppression and cultures of bigotry while being a voice for those who have been most harmed. Every person has a God given right to exist, the freedom to identify themselves as they choose and a responsibility to seek reconciliation in this broken world. The LBGTQ+ people living among us have the unequivocal right to equal treatment under the law, protections, and the opportunity to thrive as do all people.

First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers stands to proclaim that there is another way to understand the Gospel which clearly affirms all people before God. When asked ‘What is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37-39) Christians, all faith traditions, and spiritual paths call us to care for the other beyond our own self-interest as an expression of love. To love our neighbor transcends categories of sexuality, race, political affiliation and more. 

The First Presbyterian Church stands with our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and in the name of Jesus Christ we refute the implications and falsehoods of the invitation to the ‘prayer event’ on Friday evening. We pray the Pride Festival is peaceful and that those attending will feel accepted.  May God bless the Three Rivers community and may the Holy Spirit move us to be a more loving and inclusive community for all people. 

Yours in Christ,

Reverend Brenda Deily, Pastor and the Governing Board of The First Presbyterian Church Three Rivers/Centreville