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Finding The Courage To Speak The Truth
by Jim Franklin, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Church in Fresno, California

In late 2008, many Californians who voted for the successful enactment of Proposition 8 (creating a state constitutional amendment affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman) found themselves under aggressive persecution from supporters of same-sex "marriage" – a retaliation fostered by the requirement that the California Secretary of State publish the names, addresses, and employers of donors to groups like ProtectMarriage.com.

With the Alliance Defense Fund serving as local counsel and providing financial support, ADF allied attorney Jim Bopp of Bopp, Coleson, and Bostrom represented ProtectMarriage.com in a suit against the Secretary of State [to prevent the state from publishing any more detailed personal information about Proposition 8 donors], and collected corroborative affidavits and other evidence documenting the multitude of attacks against Proposition 8 advocates after the election.

One such advocate is Jim Franklin, who has pastored Cornerstone Church in Fresno, California for the last 15 years. His congregation was especially outspoken in its support for Proposition 8 – and experienced firsthand the persecution that initiative sparked from those who would silence the voice of Christians in our communities.

It’s always interesting when you get a death threat at a funeral.

I was ministering to a family, following a service for one of our Cornerstone members, when my cell phone rang. Our mayor’s chief of staff was calling. "We’ve just received a letter," he said. The note made detailed, violent threats against the mayor, myself, our families, and my church.

It was a sharp wake-up call … a reminder that while those pressing the homosexual agenda may speak of tolerance, many of them openly express real hatred for those who oppose that agenda.

This wasn’t entirely news for me. Since 2004, when San Francisco’s mayor directed the city and county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, our church has been outspoken in support of biblical marriage, and we’ve drawn considerable media attention in our community and throughout California. I’ve spoken at public rallies, our church services are carried on regional television, and I have a four-hour weekend program on the No. 1 talk-radio station in that part of the state. People know where Cornerstone stands on this issue.

Our high profile has drawn a brutal response from some who support homosexual behavior. People have broken our church windows, defaced our buildings with eggs and graffiti, sent us hate mail, and made threatening calls to the church office, the radio station, and my home.

When I talk about these things with my family, I find them brave and supportive. "We’re going to do what’s right," my wife and children tell me, and that’s what I hear from our church people, too. None of the threats have deterred our congregation. Attendance, in fact, has increased.

And yet, for all that, I continue to be amazed at the silence of so many in the Christian community when it comes to these issues. Sadly, that’s especially true of our leaders. I’ve had pastor friends tell me (behind closed doors) that they agree with our church’s stand on these issues – but that they can’t say anything, personally, because of what it would mean to their job, or because some in their congregations wouldn’t like it. They’re afraid that they will be targeted as bigots, hate mongers, homophobic … and fear of those labels has pushed them into a closet.

They’re right, of course. Many will oppose them and call them those names. But the truth remains that a lot more people are looking for – yearning for – bold moral leadership. They want desperately for someone to stand.

"People are looking for – yearning for – bold moral leadership. they want desperately for someone to stand."

I know, because I’m approached by these people all the time … in shopping centers, in parking lots, out on the street. People of many faiths, people who don’t attend our church, people who don’t attend any church. People who keep telling me, "This is what we want from our pastors. This is why we come to church in the first place."

We’ve got to preach the Word – without compromise.

No matter what the media or judges say, or what votes come down from the legislature or the populace, we’ve

got to decide what’s right according to the Word, and do that. I’m just bowled over by how many people affirm this to me.

A turning point of a kind came for our congregation shortly after the last big 2008 pre-election rally in support of Proposition 8. The rally was a huge success, and as a result, protestors determined to visit our church the following Sunday to protest our actions and even disrupt the services.

We were ready for them. Police patrolled nearby. Undercover officers mingled with members.

Before the protests could get out of hand, though, local leaders of the homosexual movement arrived to intercede with those organizing the protest, urging them not to disrupt our worship.

These leaders know our church sponsors Fresno’s AIDS hospice program. That we offer meals and other outreaches to the needy of our community. We observe National AIDS Day. Over the years, through these activities, I’ve established solid relationships in the same-sex community. They know I have taught our congregation to be as unflinching in our love and compassion for those who practice homosexual behavior as we are unyielding in our opposition to that behavior.

Inside the church that morning, knowing the disruptions could come at any moment, I was praying, "Lord, do I denounce these people? Do I ignore them?"

"No," I heard Him saying, "invite them."

So, I did. I asked two of the protest leaders to join me on the platform and address our people. They did, thanking our members for their support for local AIDS work. I, in turn, acknowledged their right to assemble and protest in front of our church. We prayed together, asking God to help us, for all our disagreements on this issue, to treat each other with love and respect.

Our people welcomed these leaders of the opposition with open arms. And that love is what made the evening news in Fresno that night, and across the state, in the days leading up to the election. What the devil meant for bad, God meant for good. We can stand in opposition – stand boldly for the truth – without calling names, or being hateful. We can speak the truth in love.

 

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