A Pine Grove pastor claims his church is the victim of two separate incidents involving a rainbow “Pride” flag.
According to public posts on Facebook made by St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, a rainbow-themed “Pride” flag was stolen around September 8, about a month ago.
Presumably, these posts were made by the church’s pastor, Jason Stump. He says the flag was attached to a “public library” box sitting outside the Pine Grove Church on Tulpehocken Street, the borough’s main street.
Pine Grove Church Claims LGBTQ Pride Flags Stolen, Vandalized
Here’s what the church posted:
“Dear neighbor who stole our 🏳️🌈: We’ve got flags for days. So you didn’t really change anything. You didn’t change our hearts. You didn’t change the truth about God and God’s Love for all. You simply increased our understanding of why our ministry in a hurting and broken world is needed. You simply increased our strength and commitment,” the church writes.
“By the way, you did steal property from others. Which is not only an actual crime according to the laws (which supporting and expressing love is not); it’s also clearly against God’s intention for being in community. You should realize you are in the weaker position here and count the cost of that before taking your next step.”
The first flag was up for several weeks before it got swiped, the church says.
Then, it happened again.
The most recent alleged act of vandalism happened late last week, according to a follow-up post from the church.
Instead of swiping the flag, this time the alleged vandals shredded and partially burned the “Pride” flag.
Pastor: Vandals “Blaming the LGBTQ Community” For Their Problems
Stump says in his post through the church that the vandals are “blaming the LGBTQ community” for their problems.
Here’s his full message in response to the alleged second act of vandalism:
“Our rainbow flag is a symbol of love and welcome for all. When you know that folks who were historically excluded from love in the community of church are now fully welcome, and included, you realize that you also are. When you know that we welcome not as a adjustment to the world, but as we have gained a better understanding of God’s intention for creation. Through scripture and the Holy Spirit we have learned. When you know this, you understand that you also have been loved by God…always,” he writes.
“Our flag was stolen a few weeks ago. This time it was shredded and burned. While mounted to a Little Free Library that was built by a beloved local friend months before cancer took him. A place where children come to get books to read. It was set on fire and shredded. But again, our love and our message are only strengthened. You have destroyed a $5 flag and you have taught us why our message is needed and why we hope others join us,” the post continues.
“On a personal note, I pray for you to seek the guidance and counseling you need. Getting that help is only a phone call away. Blaming the LGBTQ community on your problems and perceptions isn’t going to help you. It doesn’t have to be so. You can have peace about this. It is not nice to steal or destroy other people’s property. – Pastor Stump.”
A day later, the church responded to the latest alleged act of vandalism. In its latest post in the “Pride” flag saga, St. Peter’s seems to have moved the flag to a place where it’d be hard for any random vandals to get.
According to a story on the alleged vandalism at St. Peter’s in Pine Grove, WNEP-TV talked to Stump. He says the church changed its stance on homosexuality in the last two years. And the flag, he says, is a way to show the Pine Grove community that the church is welcoming to the “LGBTQ community”.
Many of the people commenting on these church social media posts are rallying behind the church. Some have questioned whether it’s right to sort of taunt the alleged vandals with constant posts about the theft and damage.
One person who claims to belong to a St. Peter’s UCC in Lancaster says the “Pride” flag at their church was recently damaged, too.
Some people responding to the posts and to the WNEP article on social media believe the alleged acts may not be an act of hate. Rather, it could just be local kids being ignorant.
Regardless, Stump says he’s not pressing charges after the incidents the church is reporting on social media.
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