DALLAS (Christian Examiner) – A gay man disciplined by a Dallas church for giving in to his homosexual desires is now the center of a social media campaign against the congregation.
On Oct. 9, Jason Thomas, who was removed from the membership of Watermark Community Church a year ago, posted the letter informing him of the elders' decision to remove him from the church on social media.
The letter said the church had undertaken a difficult but necessary step to encourage Thomas to recognize the "destructive pattern [of behavior] that prohibits us in caring for you and playing the role you desire for us to have in your life (1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28)."
"Specifically, your desire to actively participate in a same-sex relationship with another man, and your unwillingness to heed biblical counsel from your church to turn from that relationship, has made it exceedingly difficult to shepherd you during this time," the letter said.
The letter said Thomas had heeded the church's counsel in the past and repented of the sin of homosexuality, but "this is no longer the case."
"So, in obedience to Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:11, we are left with no other option but to remove you from our body and treat you as we would anyone living out of fellowship with God ... and we lovingly, but firmly, call you back to repentance. This means that you are no longer a member of our body at Watermark."
When you enter into a formal membership covenant with a church family, the leaders and church community promise to 'keep watch over your souls,' according to Hebrews 13:17, and will be held accountable before God for your spiritual care and encouragement. This care is a sacred trust and comes with great responsibility. As members of God's family we are called to love, admonish, encourage, and help each other in our relationship with Christ.
The letter concludes with steps Thomas could take to return to the church, including exhibiting repentance and going through biblical counseling.
"We affirm your many gifts, your heart of kindness, and we value the way God has uniquely formed you (Psalm 139:13-14). We all pray for your repentance and full restoration so that your gifts and passion can be fully unleashed for the Kingdom of God. We love you, Jason, and stand at the gate for you and eagerly await God's restoration in your life (Luke 15:20)," the letter concluded.
A return to the church, while not impossible, seems much less likely now that Thomas is receiving both affirmation and support for his views that the church is wrong. Thomas also posted a letter to the church on his social media page claiming he was celebrating "a very interesting anniversary with you."
"It was exactly one year ago when you told me that I was no longer worthy to serve, be in a community group, and be a member of your church," Thomas wrote on his Facebook page.
Thomas said he spent years battling against homosexuality and believed God would change him. He said he prayed daily for change, but "when I wasn't able to change, you turned your back on me."
"You say our 'sin' is not unique, but you treat us in a unique manner; this is unacceptable behavior. We are actual people that have actual feelings," Thomas wrote.
In the posting, he accuses the church of tarnishing the name of God among Christians and non-Christians alike and suggests that the church – which has followed the biblical model of discipline – should be ashamed of itself. Jesus, Thomas wrote, was angry with people who told others they were not worthy to be His followers.
"Thank you for removing yourself from my life! I am who God made me to be. I cannot change my sexual orientation and nor would I want to. I now have internal peace and happiness like never before," Thomas concluded.
Thomas has since received a significant amount of support from those who claim the church isn't following biblical standards. On the church's Facebook page, some of the responses are also favorable to Thomas. More, however, are encouraging to the church and its leaders.
The church issued a statement after the flurry of news reports now surrounding Thomas's departure from the church. It said that it wanted to offer clarification for those outside of the church as to what transpired.
The congregation, the statement said, "loves and welcomes people of all backgrounds, economic statuses, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and struggles. Also following His example, we encourage people to turn away from sin and to follow Jesus."
"As directed by Scripture, Watermark makes a distinction between regularly attending and being a formal member of our church. We don't remove someone's formal status as a member for struggling with sin – whether that sin is pride, materialism, or sexual sin. Every member of Watermark needs God's grace to stand firm in the midst of temptation and His forgiveness for the times we fall short."
"An individual's formal relationship with us as a member is only changed when someone no longer desires to resist sin and/or refuses our help, care, and encouragement. Even if someone's formal membership status is removed, our desire is to continue to love and care for them, and they are always welcome to attend Watermark and be reminded of the grace and truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ," the statement said.
The church also explained that before the letter presented on social media by Thomas was sent, the church went through an extensive process of attempting to counsel Thomas and instruct him in repentance. The church asked, the statement said, how it could "best love and serve him."
But, as the church noted, "In those meetings, it became increasingly clear that he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ, and he also made it clear that he no longer desired the help, care, and encouragement we were seeking to provide."
The church also said that until the letter was published on social media, only those closest to Thomas and the friends attempting to help him in his Christian walk were aware of the change in his membership status. He was not told he could not attend the church.
The church said it was only appropriate to change Thomas's membership status since he had moved away from the church's "core commitments, biblical convictions, and [the] values of Watermark."
On Sunday, the church's pastor, Todd Wagner, weighed in on the controversy in the Dallas Morning News. He said church discipline as a concept may seem archaic and oppressive to many, but he said the goal of it is repentance and He said "loving correction."
"Loving correction (church discipline) can be a difficult idea to understand, because candidly – though the mandate is clearly explained by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, most churches today completely ignore it. Discipline is an act of love, something any parent knows," Wagner wrote.
"When you enter into a formal membership covenant with a church family, the leaders and church community promise to 'keep watch over your souls,' according to Hebrews 13:17, and will be held accountable before God for your spiritual care and encouragement. This care is a sacred trust and comes with great responsibility. As members of God's family we are called to love, admonish, encourage, and help each other in our relationship with Christ."
Watermark Community Church is a non-denominational congregation that meets in three locations, including Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano.