Archive for Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shepherding the flock

Conservative pastors say liberal Lawrence is a perfect place to preach the gospel

July 23, 2005


Berkeley of the Midwest.

Babylon on the Kaw.

Blue dot in an overwhelmingly "red" state.

A haven for latte-sipping, Birkenstock-wearing, Democrat-voting, gay-loving, pot-smoking, hybrid-car-driving, tree-hugging, pagan-worshipping LIBERALS.

That's the image many Kansans have of Lawrence, Kansas University - heck, all of Douglas County.

In other words, the perfect place for the Rev. Bill Hurlbutt, a conservative, evangelical pastor, to preach the Gospel.

"It means I'm living in the right part of the state," says Hurlbutt, laughing, "because it's the greatest opportunity to share my views and my values and to share my beliefs about the word of God."

In fact, Hurlbutt - senior pastor of Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive - says Lawrence is the best place he's done ministry.

"This is my third church. I was in southern Pennsylvania, right in the middle of the Bible Belt. I was in West Virginia, and then here," he says. "If you want to preach to the choir, come to southern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They're great, but this is the place where your message can really have an impact."

Hurlbutt isn't alone in this view.

Many of his colleagues - theologically conservative, Bible-believing pastors - see liberal Lawrence and its supposedly "anything goes" inhabitants as an opportunity, not an obstacle, to serving as a shepherd and spreading the word of Jesus Christ.

"I don't like opposition - there's no doubt about that," says the Rev. Scott Hanks, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, 1781 E. 800 Road. "But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else because I know this is where the Lord wants us."

Liberal enclave

A handful of Lawrence's prominent, conservative Christian leaders seem to agree that the city has earned its reputation as a bastion of liberality in a state that leans heavily to the right.

And while they might personally lament that situation, they don't let it interfere with their ministry.

"Lawrence is a city filled with wonderful people who are very caring and really are giving and want to help those in need. But it's also liberal in other areas that Jesus was conservative in," says the Rev. Paul Gray, senior pastor of Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt.

"So for me, being in a town full of very caring, giving people, that's a wide open door to talk to them about God. While people would label Lawrence as liberal, I certainly don't think it is anti-God or anti-spiritual."

The Rev. Leo Barbee Jr. has been a pastor in Lawrence for nearly 30 years, and he thinks the city deserves its label as a liberal enclave in conservative territory.

"I'm not surprised, but saddened that we're the only county in the state that voted against the marriage amendment (banning gay unions in Kansas), and I think that's a sad commentary on us," says Barbee, pastor of Victory Bible Church, 1942 Mass.

He has been an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, and, at times, a lightning rod for criticism on controversial issues in the community.

"I'm not saying I'm preaching AGAINST something, I think I'm preaching FOR right and righteousness, and of course, when you say 'this is where I stand' you become a target as far as your beliefs are concerned," Barbee says.

"But I'm thankful to be here. I really am. It's a tremendous opportunity."

Place of opportunity

Lawrence isn't the easiest environment in which to preach a back-to-the-basics gospel message - the wider culture doesn't seem much interested.

But conservative pastors here shrug their shoulders and say it comes with the territory.

"When Jesus was on Earth, he had opposition. And as long as you stand for right, you're going to have opposition no matter where you are. So Lawrence is no different than any other place," says the Rev. William Dulin, pastor of Calvary Church of God in Christ, 646 Ala.

It can be frustrating, trying to reach those who may not want to listen.

"I'm not going to say I enjoy it, but it's just part of the ministry you have to deal with. It'd be lovely if everyone would turn and do the principles of what Jesus taught, but they're not going to do that," Dulin says.

Hanks, of Heritage Baptist Church, agrees.

"I think the opposition might be greater here, but the challenge is still everywhere. In every community, you're going to have people who do not want to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ," he says.

But Hanks, a harsh critic of homosexuality, sees only opportunity.

"Well, I look at it this way: The darker the night, the brighter the light. And the darker the community, the church that takes a stand for right will be brighter and will stand out from the rest," he says.

So is Lawrence - hotbed of liberalism - a decent place for a conservative pastor to preach?

"Well, ain't nobody shot me yet," Dulin says, laughing.


BrianR 12 years, 2 months ago

What these guys don't get is that if Jesus were alive today these preachers would BE his opposition.

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 2 months ago

ACK! So a handful of local pastors hopes to save the Godless Sodomites from their heathenous lifestyle.

It being gay is such an unnatural abomination, God would have taken us out of the game years ago.

So maybe God knows something that they don't.

I know this: God made me. God loves me. If the Right's ultimate goal is to eliminate homosexuality, they've got a LONG way to go. We're not going anywhere.

And, as long as we've got queer-bashing child molesters in robes and ultraconservative congressmen playing up to each other, we're not GETTING anywhere, either.

average 12 years, 2 months ago

"Lawrence is a city filled with wonderful people who are very caring and really are giving and want to help those in need. But it's also liberal in other areas that Jesus was conservative in," says the Rev. Paul Gray

I've read the bible, and I can't figure out what areas Jesus was conservative in. Paul, yes. But Paul wasn't Jesus... more like his antithesis. And that's who these preachers serve.

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 2 months ago

Good call, Brian and Average.

"A haven for latte-sipping, Birkenstock-wearing, Democrat-voting, gay-loving, pot-smoking, hybrid-car-driving, tree-hugging, pagan-worshipping LIBERALS."

Since when is enjoying a latte or driving a hybrid car a deplorable sin? Jesus doesn't care what type of shoes you wore! In fact, he pulled them sh*ts off so he could scrub the feet of the hippie-esque apostles.

I think the author wanted to paint a picture dripping with liberalism in order to catch the attention of our readers from the right.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 2 months ago

So Smitty... if one man shows some physical affection toward another man, he's OBVIOUSLY gay? Don't you think that's a little bit of a leap? Did you ever hug your dad? Was he your gay lover?

I think it's odd that someone wants to bring validity to the homosexual lifestyle tries to do so by saying "if the Bible can be believed as accurate history". There is no doubt that the Bible condemned homosexuality, so you may not want to try to USE scripture to demonstrate that God is OK with the gay lifestyle. You'll lose that arguement.

Average: What part of the Bible did you read? I've read the part where Jesus says that mere lust is on par with actual adultery. That doesn't sound conservative to you?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 2 months ago

Green Eyes:

You are right, this is not a well written article. I own sandals (can't afford the Birkenstocks), and I also fail to see where lattes come in to this issue. How shallow. I know Christians who wear tie-dyed shirts and long hair. I fear that the writer doesn't understand what "right" and "left" really are.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 2 months ago

Green Eyes:

You are right in saying God made you and God loves you. But do not assume that those facts mean that God approves of all the choices you are making.

You say that God would have wiped you out a long time ago if he didn't like what you are doing. Do you see evil in the world? Is God "wiping out" all that evil? No, God is patient. As is written in Romans 2:4... "Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" and just a few verses before that "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their WOMEN EXCHANGED NATURAL RELATIONS FOR UNNATURAL, ANDTHE MEN LIKEWISE GAVE UP NATURAL RELATIONS WITH WOMEN AND WERE CONSUMED WITH PASSION FOR ONE ANOTHER, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness".

God is not wiping you out because he wants to give you ththe opportunity to correct your ways. If you look at Romans chapters 1 & 2, you see that the homosexual lifestyle is the direct result of FIRST rejecting God. When I read this, I also get the impression that this is as much an indictment of SOCIETY at large as it is against the individuals involved in the acts listed.

average 12 years, 2 months ago

This was a Jesus who saved the life of an adulterer from stoning (normal punishment for the time). Where you quote, OldEnuf, would be Matthew 5:28. Read the whole of Matthew 5. To me, the entire chapter, this whole sermon, is saying that NONE of us is perfect, even those holy pharisees who never broke one of the written commandments. There is no man who doesn't fail the test of Matthew 5, and that is the point. We are in the same boat, so we'd better get along before God calls us out on our own sins, and makes us account for every one of them (Matt 5:25). Seek your own righteousness, be reconciled to your brother, and go your own way (Matt 5:24).

As for Romans, as I mentioned before, I pay far less attention to the less than Christ-filled teachings of Paul.

tashtego 12 years, 2 months ago

What's with the so-called "Christians" and their obsession with homosexuals? Christ said nothing about homosexuals. He did say a lot about the rich, but we don't hear too much about that these days.

The Old Testament pronouncements are thought by most scholars to be simply based on the "tribe's" need for self-preservation. Those in the NT are similarly thought to be reactions to the Hellenistic culture adopted and promoted by Rome.

I don't live in Lawrence, but when Douglas County voted against that stupid amendment I proudly sent the story by e-mail to friends from high school.

Personally, I think the world was a better place back when the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

memoirs_of_a_sleepwalker 12 years, 2 months ago

Old Enuf, I think God will be more concerned with those mired in anger and prejudice--and use his name to legitimize and conceal their own shortcomings--than those, gay or straight, who show love for each other. Hmmm . . .

Christine Anderson 12 years, 2 months ago

Hi Folks: I'm feeling mixed emotions after reading this article and it's comments. I'm a member of a church pastored by one of the genuine, brave men who were quoted in this article. I could be considered a fundamentalist Christian, I guess. But 'ya know what? I have gay friends and relatives I love very much. We know where we stand on the issue of each other's lives, but we have friendships and respect for each other all the same. It is quite possible to love the person, without loving or agreeing with their lifestyle. That being said, I'm sorry, but Lawrence is a very, very liberal town. That is not a condemnation on my part, but an observation. I grew up in a rural Wi farming community which, well, come to think of it, I don't know now if it was conservative or liberal. I will say this, my first day at KU as a student was a whopper of an eye-opener. Yes, folks, this was back in the stone-age, when we had to walk around a sauna known as Allen Field House and pull class cards! Please, somebody tell me you remember what I'm talking about here! Anyone under 40 probably won't. At any rate, I saw blue hair, purple hair, nose rings, ladies kissing, men holding hands, half-naked people, streakers running thru the lobby of Ellsworth Hall, itinerant preachers shouting on Wescoe Beach, and was offered a joint for the first time in my THEN young life. Ah, yes. To describe Lawrence as culture shock would be an understatement.

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 2 months ago

What the world needs now is a boy band. =) Great comment, Tashtego! LOL

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