Disciples News Service

Letter from Sharon Watkins, Rick Spleth on Indiana’s LGBT legislation

Feb. 3, 2016

Sisters and Brothers in Christ –

Many of you have been watching as the Indiana legislature once again took up the questions raised by last spring’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. You may recall that Governor Mike Pence signed a law that within a week was “fixed” due to the negative reaction from people of faith, businesses, convention planners and the general citizenry of the state. The revision made clear that it could not be used for purposes of discrimination.

This winter, the legislature began the process of revising the civil codes of Indiana to include protections for LGBT persons. Several bills were submitted, but only one made it out of committee. That bill, SB 344, in its present form was not acceptable either to civil rights activists or to those who felt it infringed upon the religious freedom of individuals and businesses. Senate leadership have now declared that it does not have the support to be considered in this short legislative session.

We want you to know we have not put this issue aside. Disciples leaders in Indiana, along with ecumenical partners, have been actively involved in communicating the concerns of Christians to the governor and legislative leaders. We will continue to do so in the remainder of this legislative session and the one that begins in 2017.

Strong civil rights protections for the LGBT community are in place in more than 13 Indiana cities and counties which cover 40 percent of the state’s population. That includes protection in Indianapolis, the city we have chosen for our 2017 General Assembly. Consequently, while disappointed that conversation has stopped in the Indiana legislature for the time being, we feel assured that all delegates to the 2017 General Assembly will be hospitably welcomed. Our presence will, in addition, offer opportunity for us to witness to our long standing commitment to civil rights for all people in Indiana and in every state.

In Christ’s service,

watkins signature


Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President

Richard L. Spleth


Richard L. Spleth

Indiana Regional Minister

You can read more here: Indianapolis Star, Feb. 3, 2016, Why Indiana lawmakers killed the gay rights debate for this year

7 Responses to “Letter from Sharon Watkins, Rick Spleth on Indiana’s LGBT legislation”

  1. Bruce Naylor,, Co-Pastor, Soutdside Christian Church South Bend:

    Thank you on behalf of my co-pastor, Dean Heisey and the first “Open and Affirming” Disciple congregation in Indiana. We deeply appreciate leaders who speak for the rights and dreams of so many of our members. No you speak for all of us, straight and LGBT. We are bound to each other in Christ.

  2. Sara Bryant:

    Thank you, Sharon Watkins and Rick Spleth for all you do for all people.

  3. kim shaffner:

    Based on reading this article, I get the distinct impression that you support gays and lesbians in the church. If we take it a step further in stating some of the doctrine of this denomination that allows for anyone to serve in leadership, don’t you think that gives off the premise that serving while in a state of sin is acceptable? Of course we know the phrase God is love; but don’t you think that the redemption of sin brings us closer to God? The second half of Romans 1 states quite clearly about what happens when God lends people over sexual immorality; in vivid detail Paul describes God’s view about such sins and the consequences of them. Given that information, don’t you agree that it’s important to teach exactly what scripture says, rather than using your own subjective reasonings as justification for condoning such sin? Maybe you should seriously reconsider your doctrines of this denomination foundation, before you begin preaching “God is Love.” Kim Shaffner; Canon City, CO

    • Cherilyn Williams:

      Please note that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does not have “doctrine” as it is practiced in many denominations. We are congregationally governed and work together in covenant with each congregation deciding on its own leadership. You can read more about what binds us in The Design.

  4. Dan Crook:

    If what you say is true, what, if anything would be said to a pastor of the Disciples of Christ if he or she refused to marry a same sex couple, if the pastor truly believed in the above mentioned passages?

  5. Dr. Charlotte Koontz Jones:

    I fervently believe we must have no creed by Christ. Our Scriptures clearly state that homosexual offenders will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. That’s all I need to know in order to obediently follow my Christ who is my Savior, the Son of the Living God. I made this life-changing committment years ago, and I want to be His pleasing vessel on this earth. Praise God for His amazing forgiveness and gift of eternal life.

  6. I am trying to determine from all the long worded, legalistic style of writing whether or not the Disciples Church approves or disapproves of homosexual leadership. Since I am considering affiliation with the Disciples congregations, it is very important to fully know your stance in this matter. I believe that we are to love all people, but we are NOT to coddle, or be accepting of the sin. That means all are welcome and are loved, but to dance around the truth would be to not share the truth of the Gospel, and to place those practicing sin of any nature, into leadership would weaken the value of the Gospel of Christ. The key word is practicing. We ALL sin and fall short of Gods glory. We would do a disservice to those whom we are to share the Gospel if we do not SHARE the Gospel. We should share the truth of the Word of God in love, and the hearer must determine their willingness to accept its validity. Please understand, I am not attacking any one sin. My question is just as valid for leadership involved in adultery, fornication, or any other act that goes against the teachings of Gods Word. Those do not seem to have the same presence in the press, but are just as valid in the moral values department. A await a clarifying answer. Thanks