Wondering about Watoto, too | Guest column

by Dick Staub

Senior Pastor, Orcas Island Community Church

Last week Anita Holliday wrote an important piece about the controversy surrounding the Watoto Children’s choir. First I want to thank Anita for her gracious, and respectful spirit towards the our church, a spirit which is so useful for productive dialogue.

Briefly, here is what happened from my perspective. Watoto contacted some individuals at OICC and asked if they could use our venue for their concert. We were unaware of any controversy surrounding the group. The week of the concert KOMO KING TV ran a piece critical of the group, but not nearly as detailed as what Anita reported.  I was leaving town, and missed the concert, but before leaving I wrote a response to the community in case anyone called and asked. (Only two people called the office, both attendees of our church.)

Here is my statement. “We did not know of the connection of Watoto to the Ugandan political controversy. At OICC we support, supporting the orphans. We believe everyone is created in God’s image. We have taken steps to assure that any funds received in support of Watoto will be designated specifically to supporting only the orphanage and will clearly be directed in that restricted way.”

Additionally, because the KOMO KING TV piece specifically addressed concerns in the gay community, I personally talked to some gay friends and apologized for any offense. The response I received was that the Community Church has clearly reached out lovingly to the whole Orcas Island community. They appreciated my concern and did not think it should keep us from supporting orphans.

Once again, I apologize for any offense. I share Anita’s concerns and we have learned a lesson about doing due diligence in advance of bringing outside groups to the island. Our church is a diverse mix of 40 different denominations and I believe as Jesus did in building bridges of love and not walls of hatred in our community.

Towards that end I’d like to mention one other thing. I’m considering a community forum in which I could answer questions from my perspective about the spiritual issues of greatest interest to this community. As you may know I hosted a nationally syndicated, Chicago-based talked show and really like the give and take of a Q&A forum. I graduated from seminary 40 years ago but never worked in a church until this one. I think there is a very interesting conversation about spirituality going on in our culture, and that churches are often answering questions nobody is asking, instead of trying to respond to contemporary issues that matter most. So, if you are interested, do me a favor. Grab a 3 by 5 card or email me and write one question per card or email. Choose a question you would like to ask a Christian who has a warm heart, active mind and hungry soul.

Address your mail or email to Dick Staub Q&A Forum. You can be anonymous or include your name, email address and phone number. Send them to my email dsjr@dickstaub.com or to P.O Box 729, Eastsound, WA 98245.

Let’s start exploring ideas that matter together.