May 13, 2016 - 7:00 AM
BURGEO, N.L. - A Newfoundland woman ousted as a volunteer leader for a Christian children's charity because she supports gay marriage and abortion says she has been overwhelmed with support for her stance.
Kay Cossar was sent packing as regional co-ordinator of Operation Christmas Child after she refused to sign a statement of faith that denounced same-sex marriage and abortion.
"I guess I'm shocked because we're in 2016," Cossar said Thursday from Burgeo on Newfoundland's south coast. "I would have thought the group would have been more open-minded," she said of Samaritan's Purse, an international charity based in Boone, N.C., that runs the program.
"A lot of people, I guess, support that and they have a right to or not. I've chosen not to."
A Facebook post on her ouster has been shared hundreds of times, with dozens of commenters slamming the decision and some saying they'll find other causes to back.
Canadians sent almost 730,600 shoe box gifts to the developing world last year through Operation Christmas Child. Since becoming co-ordinator for the Burgeo region in 1998, Cossar helped ship 4,442 of the packages containing small gifts and school supplies.
Samaritan's Purse is headed by Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham.
Cossar first heard about the charity while attending church and has periodically received statements of faith to sign, she said in an interview. There was something very different about the document that arrived last winter, which explicitly denounced same-sex marriage and abortion.
Cossar sent it back unsigned with a letter outlining her position.
"I was informed by the Atlantic regional manager for the group that I am no longer suitable to be a co-ordinator because I do not subscribe to the beliefs of Samaritan's Purse," Cossar wrote in her Facebook post dated Monday. "If you are a supporter of this group, you may want to reconsider."
Samaritan's Purse says it delivers disaster relief and other help to people in need around the world regardless of religious beliefs. It has been raising donations this month for victims of the Fort McMurray forest fire in Alberta.
Jeff Adams, a spokesman for Samaritan's Purse Canada, confirmed leaders who represent the group must sign a statement of faith recently changed to explicitly reject gay marriage and abortion.
"The amendments include a specific mention that 'human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage,' that a marriage by Biblical definition is between 'a genetic male and genetic female,' and that 'human life is sacred from conception to its natural end,'" he said in an emailed response.
"We included these specifics NOT because our views on these issues had changed, but simply because the world's views on these has changed to the point where we felt the need to again remind our volunteers that our organization accepts the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God."
Cossar said she was invited to continue donating to Samaritan's Purse or volunteering in general — just not in a leadership role.
She declined, and said she'll work on behalf of another charity. The decision to rebuff her help after so many years makes no sense, she added.
"I was very disappointed with their response," Cossar said. "I'm the same person today as I was yesterday."
— By Sue Bailey in St. John's, N.L.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016