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MADISON, WI: St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church invites NFL Player to speak

MADISON, WI: St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church invites NFL Player to speak
Leroy Butler loses speaking gig at church after comment backing gay NBA player

By David W. Virtue
May 6, 2013

The feminist priest of St. Dunstan's Episcopal parish in Madison, Wisconsin is bringing Leroy Butler, inventor of the "Lambeau Leap" to her church.

LeRoy Butler, a former Green Bay Packers star, sent a Twitter message of congratulations to Jason Collins, a veteran NBA player who made headlines last week when he became the first NBA player to come out as gay.

Butler had been scheduled to do an anti-bullying presentation at an unnamed church. That church pressured Butler to withdraw his support for Collins. When he refused, they cancelled his appearance.

Sensing an inclusion moment, The Rev. Miranda Hassett sent a "Dear friends" letter to her parish on May 3 saying that she had heard that Butler had had his appearance cancelled and thought the parish should invite him to hear his views on bullying.

"LeRoy walked away from a good amount of money in order to stand for what's right," Hassett said of the $8,500 speaker's fee Butler would have received for the address.

"Like many Christian leaders, I saw that story go by and thought, 'Oh, no - another story that will reinforce the widely-held public view that Christians are intolerant and exclusionary. I wish we could invite Butler to come speak here.'" wrote Hassett.

A vestry member, Robert Chappell, said why not invite him?

The feminist rector added this was "an appropriate opportunity for Christian witness." She said she looked at the life and teachings of Jesus and sees a consistent theme of reaching out in love and acceptance to those who were on the margins of society, for all kinds of reasons. "Jesus spent a lot of time with people who were excluded and stigmatized, telling them about God's love. That's why the Episcopal Church has been moving in the direction of fully affirming the gifts and the relationships of our gay and lesbian members. Further, I believe, with many other Christians, that following Christ means standing with those who are being marginalized or treated unjustly for whatever reason. And continuing to stand with them even when it's hard, even when it upsets somebody. That's what LeRoy did, and that's why we want to welcome him and support him."

She said she hoped he would come on June 16. "His talk will have an anti-bullying theme, and we're hoping to reach out and involve other church youth groups in the area. We expect this event to be largely or fully funded by donations from outside of our parish."


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