Circle of Hope Ousts Gay Congregant for “Speaking Too Publicly About Homosexuality”

Andrew Stahler standing outside a Circle of Hope location on South Broad Street.

Andrew Stahler standing outside a Circle of Hope location on South Broad Street. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kourkounis.

There’s a story in the current issue of City Paper about a gay man who was asked to leave Circle of Hope, a progressive church that prides itself on open-minded philosophies geared toward young worshippers, because he was “speaking too openly about homosexuality.”

Andrew Stahler says he began attending the church in 2009. He was an active member, attending sermons regularly, and was assured that his sexuality was not an issue. But things changed at OutFest that same year. The article reports:

At Center City’s annual OutFest in 2009, Stahler says he assisted a group of activists distributing fliers that listed LGBT-friendly churches. As he handed out hundreds of leaflets, Stahler saw that his own church wasn’t listed. Assuming it was a simple omission, he raised the issue with church leaders later on Circle of Hope’s email list.

A response came swiftly from Circle of Hope founder and senior pastor Rod White.

“We do not want to be divided up by gay political activism,” wrote White in an email. He criticized Stahler for sometimes attending another church and said that if he were truly devoted to Circle, he never would have broached the topic of homosexuality at all.

“You are not in covenant with us,” White continued, referring to an “oath” some congregants take to bond with the church. “Certainly not enough to resist promoting a divisive issue we have been successful at avoiding, so far.”

Stahler says he started receiving emails from Rashid, who wanted to set up a personal meeting to discuss his “role in the church.” At that meeting, Rashid gave him two options: stop talking about homosexuality or leave the church.

This is starting to sound like some freaky Tom-Cruse-scientology shit. When asked to explain the church’s actions, Rashid was oblivious. “I don’t really remember [the meeting] that well, so I’m not able to speak to Andy’s experiences. …  [Andy] never really connected, I don’t have a clear memory of him.”

But Briggs talked to another guy, John Bright, who had a similar experience. To continue reading, go here.