An Open Letter to Pastor Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries

by Jaime Heidel

Pastor Chavez,

I’m sure you have received your fair share of letters over the past week or so. Some of them “hate mail,” others, letters staunchly supporting your decision. This letter falls under neither category. Going to any kind of extreme would only alienate you from its simple message.

Vanessa Collier was a human being, created by God, and loved by Jesus Christ.

She was also deeply loved by her wife, children, friends, and family. When I read the article that her funeral services were stopped because she was gay, I was appalled.

I couldn’t imagine what the people who loved her had to go through when the services intended for Vanessa to peacefully depart from this life to the next, just stopped.

Pastor Chavez, I invite you to think back to a time when you lost someone; when you were mourning at a funeral. If the priest or pastor conducting services over your loved one simply refused to go on, and everybody had to get up and move not only the arrangements but the body itself, to another location, what type of emotional effect would it have had on you?

I imagine you would have felt ashamed, embarrassed, rejected, hurt, and very angry. This is how members of the LGBT community felt when they heard about Vanessa Collier.

Your actions not only disrespected her life, her marriage, and the love of those closest to her, but an entire community of people.

The halting of the funeral for Vanessa sent a loud and clear message that all LGBT people are second-class citizens and do not deserve the honor and respect of a proper Christian funeral unless all evidence of their “alternative lifestyle” has been removed.

Pastor Chavez, a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression is not a choice. This has already been scientifically proven many times over.

If you did not agree with their marriage or the way Vanessa and her wife lived their lives, it would have been well within your rights to refuse to have the funeral at your church. But, for whatever reason, you didn’t.

Instead, you stopped in the middle, while mourners were at their most vulnerable, and looking to you, their pastor, for guidance and support. This is the time you chose to turn them away.

It is not my place to judge you. All I’m asking you to do is to step into their shoes, just for a moment, and see how your actions might have affected them.

If Jesus was at that service, and He had observed what took place that day, how do you think He would have felt?

Jesus preached love, peace, tolerance, and acceptance. He went out of His way to minister to those who were ostracized by society. That is how His love changed the world.

You have within you the power to do this as well, to let Jesus Christ speak through you when your personal beliefs come into conflict with your ability to serve Him.

I have no contempt for you. I wish you, your wife, and your church the best. I only pray you will allow your heart and mind to be expanded through this experience, so Jesus, once again, can speak words of hope, love, and encouragement to all God’s people, through you.

In Christ,

Jaime A. Heidel

Photo via flickr user William Arthur Fine Stationery