Category Archives: Blog

World AIDS Day Service, November 26, 2017

In honor of World AIDS Day 2017, First Christian Church of Decatur will host Unity Fellowship Church Greater Atlanta and Gentle Spirit Christian Church in their main sanctuary for a joint service and panel discussion at 10:30am on Sunday, November 26, 2017.

For Gentle Spirit Christian Church, this special service in the main sanctuary of First Christian takes the place of its regular Sunday worship as The Church Without Walls in Candler Park.

“Remember, Hope, Act” is the theme of the World AIDS Day service, which will be concelebrated by Rev. Dr. James Brewer-Calvert of First Christian, Rev. Maressa Pendermon of Unity Fellowship, and Rev. Paul M. Turner of Gentle Spirit. The Praise Team from Unity Fellowship will offer a choral anthem. A 30-minute panel discussion follows the service.

“The AIDS pandemic is still far from being over,” said Rev. Turner. “While World AIDS Day normally finds me in somber reflection on that fact, I look forward to the spiritual uplift of this combined service with two of my partners in local ministry. Joining together in voice and song, we will be praying hard for God’s will to be done with respect to all who are affected by HIV/AIDS.”

Hygiene Kits for the Homeless: February 18, 2018

Several times a year we distribute nearly 500 personal hygiene kits to local homeless people. Since starting our hygiene kits ministry in 2010, we have distributed thousands of kits. Our goal is to distribute 2,000 kits a year.

Our next distribution is planned for Sunday, February 18, 2018 in place of our regular Church Without Walls service. As with the regular service, we will meet in picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park.

During our last hygiene kits ministry on November 12, 2017 we assembled 500 more hygiene kits for distribution to local homeless people. We were joined by members of the Decatur Rotary Club, which also generously supports our hygiene kits ministry with a grant and sourcing of supplies.

The hygiene kits ministry happens in three phases:

  • Collection of hygiene kit supplies year-round.  (Click here to see a list of what we collect; we can use your help!)
  • Assembly of the hygiene kits on the date and time indicated above, at picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park in place of our regular Church Without Walls service.
  • Distribution of the hygiene kits to local homeless people immediately following assembly of the kits.



Decatur Christmas Tree & Wreath Sale 2017

First Christian Church of Decatur has announced the dates and hours for its 10th Annual Christmas Tree & Wreath Sale, featuring quality trees and homemade wreaths, on their front lawn from Friday, November 24, 2017 until sold out.

Gentle Spirit Christian Church’s ministries — including our hygiene kit ministry to metro Atlanta’s homeless — are among the beneficiaries of this successful annual effort, which also benefits church and community missions in the city of Decatur, including FCCD’s own Decatur Toy Park.

Volunteers for the Tree Sale are welcome. For full details including sale hours, pre-sale discount, local delivery and more, visit the Tree Sale page on the FCCD website.

Rev. Turner Signs Interfaith Dream Act Letter to Congress

Today the Rev. Paul M. Turner of Gentle Spirit Christian Church signed the Interfaith Dream Act Sign On Letter, whose text is as follows:

Dear Members of Congress,

As people of faith, we believe we’re all members of one spiritual family. Dreamers are our beloved siblings. We strive to love our neighbor and uphold everyone’s innate human dignity. Dreamers worship in our pews, study in our schools, and work in our communities. For many, this is where they learned to ride a bike, celebrate our nation’s holidays, and serve their communities. They are mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, scientists, and leaders of a new generation of Americans – and they make our nation stronger. The decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) before legislation was enacted to protect them from deportation was immoral, as it leaves nearly 800,000 individuals facing an unknown future.

We, a diverse community of religious leaders, ask Congress to act today. Dreamers cannot wait, our businesses cannot wait, and our country cannot wait. We urge all Members of Congress to immediately pass a clean Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615/H.R. 3440), which provides a long overdue pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth.

Congress must pass the Dream Act immediately as a matter of moral urgency. Despite the purported six-month delay in enforcement, the consequences of terminating DACA are immediate, devastating, and profound. No new applications are being considered, and current recipients will see their protection revoked starting in March. Some recipients may have their protection jeopardized sooner if their status expires before then and they are unable to pay nearly $500 in fees, or ensure that the Department of Homeland Security receives their renewal requests by October 5. Leaving DACA recipients and other Dreamers in limbo violates our nation’s values and sends a message of exclusion to immigrant youth, some of whom do not have family or a support system in their birth country. Many do not remember it, or even speak the language.

Dreamers have worked tirelessly for the country they call home to recognize them as our own. The bi-partisan Dream Act of 2017 is the culmination of that legacy. We stand with these brave individuals who embody our ideals and the future of this great country. Dreamers inspire us to live into our shared faith values of unconditional love for our neighbors and determined belief in the possibility of justice for all people. Their vision is our vision, that we can realize an immigration system that affirms the sanctity of family unity, respects the rights and dignity of all, and makes the American Dream truly achievable.

We have grave concerns about proposals to attach harmful immigration enforcement increases with relief for Dreamers. Pairing relief for Dreamers with policy that puts their parents, siblings, and other immigrants at increased risk of deportation or detention or further infringes upon the rights and safety of border communities is unacceptable. Our outdated immigration system leaves millions unjustly detained, separated from family, and locked out of regularizing their status. Congress must enact a clean Dream Act of 2017 without attaching it to increased immigration enforcement.

We are people of faith, grounded in the teachings of our varied traditions. When there is injustice, we are called to right it. Our faith demands that we be agents of community restoration. We pray for this nation and for all people seeking safe, stable, and fruitful lives. We pray with Dreamers for relief as they face an unknown future. We pray that you – our Members of Congress – will do everything in your power to immediately pass a clean Dream Act of 2017.

Hygiene Kits for the Homeless: November 12, 2017

Several times a year we distribute nearly 500 personal hygiene kits to local homeless people. Since starting our hygiene kits ministry in 2010, we have distributed thousands of kits. Our goal is to distribute 2,000 kits a year.

Our next distribution is planned for Sunday, November 12, 2017 in place of our regular Church Without Walls service. As with the regular service, we will meet in picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park.

During our last hygiene kits ministry on August 27, 2017 we assembled 500 more hygiene kits for distribution to local homeless people. We were joined by members of the Decatur Rotary Club, which also generously supports our hygiene kits ministry with a grant and sourcing of supplies.

The hygiene kits ministry happens in three phases:

  • Collection of hygiene kit supplies year-round.  (Click here to see a list of what we collect; we can use your help!)
  • Assembly of the hygiene kits on the date and time indicated above, at picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park in place of our regular Church Without Walls service.
  • Distribution of the hygiene kits to local homeless people immediately following assembly of the kits.





When In Doubt, Err On The Side Of Love

On Thanksgiving Day 1977, my husband’s father died of a massive heart attack, leaving behind a wife and 12 children — six boys and six girls. The family was Episcopalian, attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport, Ky., where the Pabst family tithed and the children were baptized and married.

Because of the family’s size, Mr. Pabst had to work two jobs to keep food on the table, clothes on everyone’s backs and the mortgage current. Decades before Uber and Lyft made it cool to moonlight as a driver, Mr. Pabst drove a taxi on the weekends in the Cincinnati metro area to supplement the income from his day job. This of course meant long hours well into the night on Fridays and Saturdays, and even into the early morning hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Consequently, he missed a lot of Sunday church services.

When he died and Mrs. Pabst contacted the church to make plans for the funeral, she was told flatly that there would be no funeral at St. Paul’s for her husband because his lack of attendance caused him to not be an active member.

What the… ?

Isn’t it the church’s responsibility to provide for the surviving family a place to grieve, to be consoled and affirmed in the unconditional love of God? I thought so too. And sure, there are those who say that churches have rules and protocols, creeds and dogmas that demand to be followed — and not only are they correct, but they are naming the very reason why so many individual mainline churches are empty, closing or closed.

One person who’s not swayed by this trend is the Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield, Ill., Thomas Paprocki. Forty years after St. Paul’s snubbed the Pabst family in their hour of mourning and spiritual need, Bishop Paprocki has gone to extraordinary lengths to show God’s people that the church can be just as cruel today.

In set of guidelines titled “Same-Sex Marriage Policies Decree 6/12/2017”, released earlier this month, Bishop Paprocki went beyond the usual garden-variety dictate that people in same-gender marriages be denied communion and other outward signs of God’s love and grace to also say that they should be denied funeral rites, to wit:

Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites. In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary [bishop], whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).

Yup.

The document goes on to prescribe the usual waterproofing of the church, its blessed objects and its pastoral ministers against any association with same-gender marriage, all of which you can read about here. But for now let’s stick with the funeral question, since it has personal resonance for me.

Reading about the full impact of Bishop Paprocki’s guidelines, it’s hard for me to believe he’s a member of the same church that includes Pope Francis. And although I know he’d never do it, I wish I could recommend that the good bishop read Chuck McKnight’s blog on the topic of LGBTQ Christian acceptance.

In the meantime, the old-school hidebound, rule-bound church that puts God’s people second is forgetting that this whole Christian movement was never intended to be about institutions but about the children of God first and foremost. The mainline churches are forgetting that it’s not their job to define an individual’s relationship with God, or to determine the validity of that individual’s belief or faith.

In other words, they’re forgetting that it’s their to job, as stated in the Bible and translated from Aramaic into plain English, to do this:

I give a new commandment to you: “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.” (John 13:34)

They’re forgetting that nowhere in Jesus’ ministry did he indicate that it was okay to not give honor to those who had died and hope to those who remained.

McKnight puts it this way:

… The thing is, at the moment when I first made the switch to fully affirm my LGBTQ friends, I still wasn’t 100% certain about it. I still had lingering doubts. But I realized that I was causing much greater harm by withholding my affirmation than what I risked by becoming affirming.

I may only be a very simple pastor who is not famous, much less is the shepherd of a megachurch, nor is really even someone who commands a particularly large audience at any given time. But I do know that what the church needs to be teaching, promoting and acting on is pretty simple. It can be found in these seven scriptures that my church refers to as our Core Beliefs.

I would love to see Bishop Paprocki explain how these verses are about anything but love — and lots of it. How his misguided understanding of same-gender love doesn’t fit within that definition of love. And how he can write such spiritually violent “guidelines” in seeming ignorance of how that sense of overwhelming love commands us to treat one another.

Mr. Pabst got a Christian burial. Forty years later, same-gender-loving Christians are getting the Christian burials they desire and deserve. The institutional church, and people like Bishop Paprocki, aren’t stopping that — they’re only getting in the way. They’re rocks in a stream whose water is the love that goes right around them as though they’re not even there. And no matter how slowly those rocks smooth their rough edges, that glacial progress is a distant concern for the water that flows by unaffected.

Love won at Calvary. It wins today. Love will continue to win. It always has, and it always will.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

After The Dust Settles, A Call To Re-Focus

Ladies and gentlemen, in the left corner of the ring — representing the liberal, progressive, “hate everything that is not liberal or progressive by their own definition” end of our current political spectrum — is Kathy Griffin, the self-styled “D-list” comedian figuratively holding the severed head of President Donald Trump. And in the right corner — representing the conservative, alt-right and “hate everything that is not alt-right or conservative by their own definition” end of the spectrum — is Ted Nugent, a one-hit-wonder rocker figuratively holding a gun to the head of former President Barack Obama.

What is left in the middle of the ring is all of us who were taught to treat people with dignity, respect and civility. Anyone who was brought up in the same Christian church as me was likely also taught to ask of themselves, “What does the Lord require of you?”

The answer being, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 MSG) We were also told repeatedly that the most important biblical teaching from the Gospels is from John 13:34-35 (MSG): “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So what happened? Why is the noise coming from the extreme left and extreme right so loud, so overpowering? Why do we have to read and listen to justifications for the total idiocy coming from the extremes, and why is it not drowned out by the voices in the middle?

Can we not clearly see that Kathy Griffin and her ilk are way out of line when they appear to call for the death of the President of the United States?

Can we not clearly see that Ted Nugent and his ilk are way out of line when they appear to call for the death of the President of the United States?

Can we not clearly see that a political point of view does not require a lifestyle or geographic location?

Many of those from the extreme right on the political spectrum say that because I am proudly and openly gay, don’t own a gun and advocate for the homeless, I am somehow also a huge liberal who is advocating a communist takeover and ultimately will go to hell for being a fag who doesn’t preach biblical truth. They truly do not know what they are talking about and are painting with a wide brush.

Yes, I am open and proudly gay. I have had only one marriage that will celebrate its 35th anniversary on the 25th of this month — a milestone that I would like to see how many of my homophobic accusers have achieved.

I don’t own a gun, because I really fear I would use it, which doesn’t mean I don’t think those who want a gun shouldn’t get one. Although I do think one needs to show they have mental stability before ownership of such a weapon is allowed.

I advocate for the homeless because that is what Jesus said was the biggest concern to our God and therefore a key to eternal life.

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Creator, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “ (Matthew 25:34-40 NRSV)

Many of those from the extreme left on the political spectrum see those on the right as racist, misogynist homophobes who are advocating a theocracy, and who will not be happy until we on the left are all dead. This, my friends, is an equally ridiculous view point that is just as dangerous to our survival as a country as the aforementioned stupidity coming from the right.

We in the middle must take back the conversation. We must loudly call for justice and mercy. We must advocate in all that we do for non-violence and forgiveness and all that this means. The words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King need to be at the forefront of our minds: “Violence is not only impractical but immoral.” Our actions, our lives, our relationships need to reflect this not philosophically, but in the reality of our day-to-day lives.

We must take seriously the teaching from Jesus, “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” (John 20:23 MSG) We must understand that forgiveness is about our own lives and having a healthy personal outlook, rather than about the one we are forgiving.

If we are to survive as a world, then we in the middle had better wake up and find common ground with our sisters and brothers to the left or right of center before someone from one of the extremes does something that is not correctable and destroys any chance we have of continuing to claim, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all… are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

God bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Hygiene Kits for the Homeless: August 27, 2017

Several times a year we distribute nearly 500 personal hygiene kits to local homeless people. Since starting our hygiene kits ministry in 2010, we have distributed thousands of kits. Our goal is to distribute 2,000 kits a year.

Our next distribution is planned for Sunday, August 27, 2017 in place of our regular Church Without Walls service. As with the regular service, we will meet in picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park.

During our last hygiene kits ministry on May 21, 2017 we assembled 500 more hygiene kits for distribution to local homeless people. We were joined by members of the Decatur Rotary Club, which also generously supports our hygiene kits ministry with a grant and sourcing of supplies.

The hygiene kits ministry happens in three phases:

  • Collection of hygiene kit supplies year-round.  (Click here to see a list of what we collect; we can use your help!)
  • Assembly of the hygiene kits on the date and time indicated above, at picnic Pavilion 2 in Candler Park in place of our regular Church Without Walls service.
  • Distribution of the hygiene kits to local homeless people immediately following assembly of the kits.





“I Just Don’t Understand Why I’m This Way”

I’m a gay woman tormented by hell fears since I was 16. When I’m not practicing I’m OK but lonely, and when I’m in a relationship with a woman I love… I fear hell. Surely God looks worse on gay people. I just don’t understand why I’m this way. I love it but hate it only for fear of hell. If you can help me at all with any of that I’d be eternally grateful. God bless. My name is Lynda and I love God dearly and try hard to be a good Christian.

Dear Lynda,

I am so sorry you are living with this fear of not being OK with God and of being sent somewhere that prevents any kind of relationship with God.

There are certainly a lot of people today who fear “hell” as if it were a particular place. But when one does the research and study surrounding the word “hell” and its true meaning, one is more likely to find that it actually means “the total absence of God”. In other words, hell is not a place but rather a state of being. In which case it really is about your attitude to God versus being about a physical place.

The next thing I suggest you consider is: Who supposedly ends up in this place where there is a total absence of God? Well, by definition that would be people who have no relationship with God at all. In fact, Jesus said that the only unforgivable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit – and in order to do that you would have to totally reject your relationship with God.

I realize that at this point you may not feel as though I’m addressing your concerns – but please bear with me, take a deep breath and answer these two questions:

    Do you love God?
    Do you want a relationship with God?

If your answer to those two questions is yes, then “hell” is not now, nor has it ever been, a possibility for you. Read the story of the “Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32. You will see in this story that as soon as the son desired a relationship with his father, this happened:

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

But the father wasn’t listening.”

The point of the parable being that the father (God) only cared that his son (the sinner) wanted a relationship with him. Nothing else mattered – least of all, past behavior. “The father wasn’t listening” to his son’s attempt at a confession, because all the father cared about was that his son had turned back to him.

As far as you and your girlfriend are concerned, your love for each other is what is important to God. The love you share with her, having God at the center, has no possibility of “hell” ever being part of your life’s picture.

God desires to be in relationship with us, and who we fall in love with has zero to do with hell. Celebrate your love for your girlfriend and your relationship with God – and, my dear sister, you will be just fine!

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Holy Week 2017 Pastoral Call to Fast and Pray

You may be asking why we encourage an annual fast at our church. Our history is that we first started doing it 14 years ago. And for the last five years we have attempted to make our fast more focused on the work God would have us do as a church.

Throughout these past five years we have continued to focus our prayers on our church and its direction — on how to better do the work God has laid out for us.

We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to God’s people. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. As we celebrate our 19th anniversary, as we celebrate our past and present, we will look to our future.

Now that this church is beginning its 20th year of ministry, the pastoral staff and I have been moved by God’s spirit to again call for a day of “Fasting and Prayer”. I pray that all of you consider joining with Vicar Alyce, Lance and me in this fast. I will be at the park on Saturday the 15th to pray and fast and offer support for any who would like to join me from 10am till 2:30pm.

It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry, and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue. Please consider joining us — either in person with us in the park, or at a location of your choosing.

Here are the details of our time of prayer and fasting: I will lead us through the day; others are invited to help as well. If you have small children don’t let that stop you from participating, let us know you intend to be there and we will get child care for the main part of the fast and prayer on Saturday. If you have a signed “covenant” with the church I appeal to you to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and seeking God’s direction for this fellowship.

Church Fast
Individually we will be encouraging folks to focus on the question of “How do I experience freedom?” For instance:

    1. How does this translate for you in the life of Gentle Spirit Christian Church? What freedoms have you experienced?
    2. What can each of us do to support these freedoms through our vision and mission?
    3. What do we need to do as individuals to continue to live as free and spiritual people?

Collectively we will be praying and seeking God’s guidance in the following area:

In times of searching we have examples in the Bible of others calling for prayer and fasting to set themselves aside for God and to determine God’s leading. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus set himself aside to better/more clearly hear God speak and direct Jesus in all that he needed to do. We are no different in this church. We need God’s direction and wisdom to clearly speak to us.

We are setting aside Easter weekend to put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church. Our church will start our period of fasting and prayer at Good Friday services on April 14th at 7pm with First Christian Church of Decatur and end it at our Easter (Freedom Sunday) Sunrise Service at on April 16th at 7:06am in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2.

Our schedule:

  • Maundy Thursday Service on April 13th at 6:30pm at First Christian Church of Decatur, with Unity Fellowship.
  • Good Friday Service on April 14th at 7pm with First Christian Church of Decatur at the foot of the Cross on the front lawn.
  • Holy Saturday Fasting and Prayer on April 15th from 10am-2:30pm in Candler Park, near picnic Pavilion 2.
  • Easter (Freedom Sunday) Sunrise Service on April 16th at 7:06am in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2, followed by a potluck breakfast cookout.
  • Easter Sunday Celebration Service on April 16th at 10:30am with First Christian Church of Decatur, in their main sanctuary.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.