California church pastor asked to resign as views on homosexuality incompatible with church's stance

The lead of pastor of Southwest Church in California was asked to resign because he does not agree with the church's stance on homosexuality.

A gay man is silhoutted on a gay rainbow flag during a demonstration for gay rights in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 24, 2015. | REUTERS / Kham

Gerald Sharon, in his letter of resignation from the church in Indian Wells, said, "A number of months ago the Elder Board and I began a dialogue related to our understanding of human sexuality and in particular the extent to which a homosexual individual could be involved in the life of Southwest Church. Although there was distance between teh position held by our Elders and my position, it truly seemed that we would be able to find common ground where we could authentically say everyone is welcome at Southwest."

However, he said that he was informed through a certified letter of the Elders' position on the matter, based on the organization's guiding documents on "Homosexuality and Human Sexuality." He said that no homosexual who reads the documents would feel truly welcomed at Southwest, which, if followed, would exclude gays from the church.

"My desire was to rescind these papers, neither affirming nore condemning homosexuality so that all individuals regardless of their perspective could feel completely welcome and fully loved at Southwest," he wrote. "This would have allowed us to handle each situation on a relational case-by-case basis, folowing the kind of love modeled by Jesus, rather than by a policy."

Because he refused to affirm the said papers, Sharon was asked to tender his resignation, to take effect on July 8. He has also not been allowed by the elders to teach, and he and his wife are not permitted to attend services.

In a clarifying statement, Southwest Church said that it "is, and always will be, a place where everyone is welcome to attend our worship services." However, they said they will continue to point to the Bible as guide to differentiate right and wrong choices, "as our hearts can easily deceive us." They reaffirmed their stance that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sexuality if given by God, and that gender is God-assigned.

"While Southwest does not believe that being active in same sex attraction is right in the eyes of God, we welcome anyone to our church," the statement reads. "We strongly stand against those who have used the Scriptures as a means to do harm or cause bias towards members in the LGBT community." 

Sharon served at Southwest Church for more than three years. Prior to that, he was associated with Rick Warren's Saddleback Church for 11 years, serving in various leadership positions.