John said to him, â€œTeacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.â€ But Jesus said, â€œDo not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."- Mark 9:38-41
Sometimes we forget to recognize that we're more alike than we are different. Sometimes we let differences in one area keep us from working together in another.
But not Friends Congregational UCC in College Station, Texas. Even though many of the churches that worked with Prison Fellowship were critical of gay and Lesbian persons, this Open and Affirming (OnA) congregation did not let this get in the way of participating in Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program, which purchased gifts for children of inmates. Though they didn't agree on the sanctity of same-sex relationships, Friends Congregational realized that had nothing to do with helping children at Christmas. They believed in offering hope to kids whose only fault was having a parent who was convicted and imprisoned.
Unfortunately, after several years of participation, Prison Fellowship removed them from the program.
Prison Fellowship specifically refused to allow Friends Congregational UCC to continue to participate in a program to help imprisoned adults offer Christmas gifts to their children because Friends Congregational UCC is Open and Affirming of gay and Lesbian people.
The Rev. Dan De Leon, pastor of Friends Congregational, said the regional office of Prison Fellowship told him that, because the church belongs to the UCC's "Open and Affirming" program, it would not be allowed to participate in the Angel Tree program.
A Senior Vice President of Prison Fellowship said that, out of 12,000 participating churches, only a few congregations have been disqualified, usually due to doctrine on creation or homosexuality.
I doubt the kids - who would not have known which churches were involved, much less the churches' doctrine - would have cared.
"Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."