Steve Sabin support

Elton Wong

I was encouraged by the cartoon penned by Carmen Cerra that appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 10 edition of the Daily. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the issue addressed in the cartoon, it was about a local pastor, the Rev. Steve Sabin of the Lord of Life Lutheran Church, who was recently called before a disciplinary hearing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for acknowledging that he was involved in a homosexual relationship. I agree with the point made by the cartoon, and I applaud the Daily for bringing attention to a local issue.

In a way I was surprised to see him the subject of a political cartoon in a student newspaper and even on the front page of the Des Moines Register (that’s a big deal around here), because he never seemed like a controversial kind of person to me. I have attended the Lord of Life Lutheran Church for almost my entire life. I’m afraid that with all the recent media attention that the hearing has drawn, people won’t have much understanding of the human element involved, and will make their judgments based on the detached, one-dimensional media image of the Rev. Sabin, without having much of an idea what kind of person he is. So I’m going to try to tell you.

It seems strange to think of him as “the Rev. Steve Sabin.” For my friends and I, he was just “Steve,” not because it was proper (it probably wasn’t), but because he was the kind of person who made titles like that sound stuffy and cold. I remember that on many Sundays, he would leave the altar and sit on the floor in his white robes surrounded by children when it was time for their own private sermon. I remember him grinning as he showed the hand movements to “Pharaoh Pharaoh” (sung to the tune of “Louie Louie”) to the uninitiated at summer worship in the park. I remember him beaming with pride at the Christmas program that the children and youth group would perform every year. I remember how animated he became when he would sing the bass lines to lively spirituals with the church choir. I remember him laughing recently when he told me of an incident that happened when I was very young during a children’s sermon, in which he had asked us what the cross was for. I had replied “killing vampires.” He told me he had a “difficult time” regaining the sermon after that. I remember that in the part of the service where the congregation members would greet one another with the refrain “peace be with you,” Pastor Sabin would always shake every single person’s hand. I remember that he was always gentle, friendly, down-to-earth, humble, loving, and that he always had an underlying sense of humor about things. When he complemented me on my new combat boots in ninth grade, he really meant it.

All this makes it hard for me to see why the ELCA is so intent on making things difficult for him. The entire congregation of Lord of Life has supported him through the hard times, and if the ELCA asks him to resign or be thrown out of the organization, I have no doubt that the congregation will leave it too. Although I now must approach the religious questions from the view of an “outsider,” I can say that Pastor Sabin lives more in the ideal of Christ than anyone I have ever known, or probably will even know. If the congregation of Lord of Life is like me, they have no use for big organizations and official church doctrines and policy. The church is supposed to be about people. Steve Sabin is a loving, compassionate man who is loved by his congregation. Let it stand at that.

Elton Wong


Philosophy and pre-med