Flags are being stolen from Forest Hill Church
Since February, two flags have flown on the steps of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian, at the intersection of Monticello and Lee boulevards: the “rainbow” flag which celebrating LGBTQ persons, and the green, black and red flag known as the “International African Flag” or the “African-American” flag.
Four times since February, the African-American flag has been stolen.
Perhaps the flag was taken by a white supremacist. Perhaps some young person, who thought it was a good-looking flag and wanted it for a dorm room or apartment, took it. Or perhaps someone who believed that these two flags should not be in the same space removed it.
The congregation decided that flying the LGBTQ and African-American flags were signs of solidarity with populations that have historically been excluded or separated from the church body.
LGBTQ persons have not been welcomed in churches, and only recently have LGBTQ persons been allowed to serve as elder, deacon or pastor in our denomination. As is well known, there are many churches where LGBTQ individuals are still not welcome.
While there is a long tradition of Christianity in the African-American community, what we call the “Black Church” arose from slave communities and because whites refused to worship with black Christians. The CME, AME, and Pentecostal denominations formed because the Methodist church and the larger Pentecostal movement excluded black members. Our own denomination (PCUSA) also had black-only congregations because of segregationist attitudes among white Presbyterians.
As a faith community in the Heights, Forest Hill Church seeks to welcome all persons. Sometimes that means we have to signal intentionally what we believe, whom we welcome, where we stand, and with whom we stand. People who drive by the church and see our flags know what we stand for.
We don’t expect everyone to have the same perspective on this matter. But if the person who is removing the flag is reading this, you have the right to your deeply held conviction, but you have no right to steal a sign of our deepest faith conviction. We will continue to fly our flags and welcome everyone, particularly those with whom we disagree.
Rev. John C. Lentz Jr. is the pastor of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian.