‘Progressive’ Christians spread message in Clovis

CrossWalk America participants, from left, Brad Wilson, Eric Elnes, Rebecca Glenn and Mark Creek-Water head east on U.S. 60/84 into Clovis on Thursday. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

They say they are passing through the area spreading Jesus’ message of love. Their self-described progressive views on Christianity, however, are not embraced by everyone.

Six primary walkers of CrossWalk America began their four-month journey in Arizona and plan to end in Washington, D.C., where they will hold a rally to “nail their affirmations to the doorway of America.” The 2,500-mile trek is symbolic of the walking Jesus did during his three years of ministry. Members of the group, who are encouraging volunteers to join them, arrived Thursday in Clovis and plan to remain in town through Sunday.

The inclusion of all people — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender — to the Christian faith is among the group’s affirmations. Walk co-president Eric Elnes said the team relies on the hospitality of local churches along the route to provide warm beds and meals.

The nondenominational Llano Estacado Metropolitan Community Church of Clovis has welcomed the group. MCC includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members.

But when CrossWalk officials approached the Clovis Ministerial Alliance via e-mail, Elnes said the response was less than welcoming.

Clovis Christian Ministerial Alliance Chairman Lance Clemmons was the recipient of the CrossWalk e-mail.

In return correspondence, Clemmons thanked the group for the invitation to assist the project but said he was unaware of any churches in the Clovis area that followed “progressive theology.” Clemmons wished them well and directed them to seek assistance in another community.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Clemmons told the Clovis News Journal the Ministerial Alliance chose not to support the walkers because of their affirmations.

“I agree with some of the points,” Clemmons said, “but when it comes to excusing behavior that God has clearly condemned as sin, I must agree to disagree.”

Elnes shrugged off Clemmons’ response. He said he expected to run into some difficulties regarding his beliefs along the way.

“I am not interested in debating (his specific beliefs),” Elnes said. “I only wanted to extend an invitation to walk with us and enjoy Christian fellowship.”

The Clovis Christian Ministerial Alliance was formed in 2003 with about two dozen pastors. Its mission is to work together for community improvement, members have said.

Efforts to contact other leaders with the Ministerial Alliance on Thursday were not successful.

Frank Sherman, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, said he is a member of the Ministerial Alliance but rarely attends meetings since he is nearing retirement as a minister. Sherman said his congregation might have offered hospitality if asked.

“I can’t find anything in the Bible to support the gay lifestyle,” he said, “but I wouldn’t condemn them for their beliefs.”

Clovis’ Llano Estacado MCC member Tino Cordova said his church plans to provide meals for the walkers and has invited them to preach the sermon for Sunday morning’s worship service.

“We (MCC congregation) are looking forward to hearing them speak, “ he said. “Just because you are gay or straight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have access to a church.”

According to CrossWalk participants, their affirmations are referred to as the Phoenix Affirmations and also include:
• Openness to other faiths.
• Care for the Earth and its ecosystems.
• Valuing artistic expression in all forms.
• Opposing the co-mingling of church and state.
• Promoting the values of rest and recreation and prayer and reflection.
• Embracing faith and science in the pursuit of truth.

Elnes and fellow CrossWalk America co-president Rebecca Glenn said they hope to show Clovis residents that Christianity is not defined by “radical fundamentalist” voices alone. They plan to do this by walking around town, knocking on doors, and hopefully sharing sermons in local churches.

“We are walking fully and unapologetically as Christians,” Glenn said. “Each of us has a responsibility for their own faith.”