Church welcomes gay, transgender believers

Founders sought to create a place to teach God’s love

A new church is making a place for itself in the Hall County community.

Christ First International Christian Community Church is Gainesville’s first to cater to gay, lesbian and transgender Christians.

Its members believe in helping the disadvantaged in the community, but often have found their offerings rebuffed by groups opposed to homosexuality.

Many members said Sunday that such refusals don’t bother them. If anything, they said, it bolsters their desire to perform good works and lead by example.

“Our first mission is just to be a church,” said founding member Christine Ledford.

“I grew up here, and there was nothing around when I came out,” she said. “So, eventually, we decided that we should make a place to go.”

Six months ago, Ledford and six friends began to hold services in rented storefront space at 822 Oak St. The congregation since has grown, averaging about 25 people on Sundays.

Not welcome at local churches, the founding members said they used to spend Sundays in Athens at a homosexual-friendly church. But the service, originally non-denominational Christian, became a platform for people of Buddhist, Islamic and Wiccan faiths, Ledford said.

The church’s open-door policy bolstered her desire for a completely Christian service, a notion Ledford and the other members took seriously.

“We follow the Bible, we have kids and families just like everybody else,” said Pastor Monica Ledford, Christine Ledford’s partner.

She described her congregation as “normal people, compassionate people and here to make a difference in the community.”

But that mission became a testing ground for the church’s commitment.

“We’ve had a few organizations that we’ve tried to donate to and they refused it because of who we are,” Christine Ledford said. “So we decided to do it ourselves.”

The church holds meetings for gay, lesbian and transgender substance abusers and is scheduled later this month to begin “Simply Supper,” a weekly dinner for the homeless.

“It just comes down to Bible beliefs,” Monica Ledford said. “(Some) say homosexuality is a sin. We say Jesus‘ love is for everybody.”

On Sunday, the church held a bone marrow drive to benefit the Rev. Murphy Davis, head of the Open Door Community in Atlanta, a Christian service group.

Davis has lymphoma, a cancer of the disease-fighting lymphatic system. A bone marrow transplant could help her.

Sunday, about 26 people signed onto the national registry of bone marrow donors through the National Marrow Donor Program.

“We’ve had a lot of people,” said Stacy Toney, a recruitment specialist with the organization. “It’s surprising to get this many.”

Toney said more people attempted to become potential bone marrow donors, but not all were eligible due to illness, safety issues or other factors.

“This is just something else we’re doing to help,” Christine Ledford said.

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Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Gainesville Times, USA
Apr. 11, 2005
Matt Weeks
www.gainesvilletimes.com

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