Church cites Scripture in barring gay musician from performing

Chad Graber loved everything connected to church.

Especially the Tuesday night classes at CrossPoint Church called Celebrate Recovery. The prayer groups and Bible studies were his anchor after his substance abuse treatment ended.

“My goal was to put more good things in my life, and church was it,” he remembers.

Sometime around 2007 he joined the six-piece worship team for Celebrate Recovery, playing keyboards, learning Christian songs and practicing chord changes.

He belonged.

His playing caught the ear of other worship leaders at CrossPoint, the largest church in Hutchinson, boasting some 1,400 members.

It wasn’t long before Graber joined the Saturday worship band. For nearly four years he played in both worship groups.

But last November, before a rehearsal, two church leaders pulled him aside. With a serious look and hushed tone, senior pastor Andy Addis had one question: Are you gay?

Graber had told few people that he is gay. He is not an effeminate man. He had no partner. But the gay inside him, the feelings that first emerged in elementary school, refused to go away. Despite all his boyhood and adult prayers. Despite all the partying and drugs later as he tried to ignore who he was.

He’d prayed for healing from all of it. He is clean and sober.

But the gay stayed.

Graber learned a fellow member complained. Addis told him homosexuals couldn’t be leaders in church, even playing keyboards as a volunteer sideman. The minister worried too that his presence might prompt a troubled Christian to do something to hurt him.

“But he told me he’d love for me to keep going to church services,” says Graber. And other gays do attend there.

To Graber, it felt like a demotion and a shunning. If he kept attending but wasn’t playing, others would want to know why. He would either have to out himself or lie.

There’s no such thing as partial acceptance in my view, he thought.

He left.

“I could have easily started abusing again. My life was at stake, and they didn’t have a clue. Nor did they care.”

But he didn’t go back to his old ways. And he credits God.

He wonders why the church leaders focused so much on his gayness while ignoring those who are sleeping with others outside marriage. Or are divorced. Or are gluttons, gossips or any of the other myriad of sinners, because no one is perfect. Didn’t Jesus Christ pay for them all?

More than a year has passed since his rebuke. He plays piano only at home.

But now he has a partner. A serious relationship. They’re talking about starting a family.

He has found another place to worship, the Unitarian Universalist Church, he says, “where people of all faiths come together to celebrate and respect each other’s spiritual journeys.”

His prayers continue, too. But he no longer asks God to purge the gay.

Now it’s about forgiving Addis. “It’s been a struggle,” he admits.

Gay Christians ask him which churches are friendly to them. Avoid CrossPoint, he advises.

“It’s really an injustice. But I want to protect my gay friends from getting hurt.”

Addis first told The Star he didn’t want to talk about Graber. The incident had created hard feelings in the church. Some members left over it. Others are angry over Addis’ speech at a forum on Hutchinson’s proposed anti-discrimination protections for gays.

Former member Claudia Delgado called Addis “a silver-tongued snake.”

I’ve been called worse, Addis says, such as “the pastor of hate, the Fred Phelps of western Kansas.”

“We are not a church of hate. We do stand on Scripture. We love God. We love our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what you hear or read, that’s what we practice here.”

Addis, 41, says he had to correct the problem of a homosexual leading the worship.

“If it was a heterosexual practicing adultery, it would be the same. … Everyone sins. But the issue is whether you see it’s a sin and make changes as a response to what you see in Scripture. The difference with Chad is that he switched from struggling with his sin to embracing it.

“I need to stand on Scripture.”

There is no middle ground with God’s word, he says.

“I want to be a peacemaker. … People on both sides of the aisle need to be willing to forgive, understand and accept their differences. When I say ‘accept,’ I can still believe that I’m 100 percent right and that you may be wrong, but I still have to accept you as a person.

“The bullying, hating and ostracizing and anything along those lines is anything but Christ-like.”

Christ-like is not how Graber describes Addis. He scoffs at the rhetoric of “let’s agree to disagree” middle ground.

“He is talking about the very essence of who I am,” says Graber. “That’s like someone saying they love black people but believe in slavery. Or they love women, but they fight to their dying breath to deny them the right to vote. Or they’re with the Nazi party and work in the Holocaust, but they say they love Jews.”

When it comes to discrimination, he says: “There is no compromising my life.”

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