while we were traveling, our church took two actions that have left me puzzled. first, the church marriage policy was updated, stating the "for christians, marriage is between a man and a woman." second, the church accepted a transgender person into church membership. the decision on the marriage policy saddens me, though i am not surprised. i disagree strongly with the church's decision limiting marriage, and i find the phrase "for christians" especially disturbing. does the church mean that if one acknowledges same-gender marriage as being legitimate, one is no longer a christian?
i was relieved that the church did not turn away the transgender person who applied for membership. many in the church strongly disagree with the church's decision, and i have learned that attendance was quite sparse on the sunday she was formally received into the church. those who were there attributed the low attendance as a protest against the church's decision.
our church's membership is weighted heavily toward those who are 50+, and we live in a very conservative community in a very conservative area of the country, so it is not surprising that most oppose same-gender marriage and deny the existence of transgender persons. old ways of thinking die hard, and, even when these points-of-view are wrong, they won't change quickly. that doesn't mean that they have to be accepted, and i am troubled that the clergy leadership of the church is not engaging us in discussions of both these issues.
we have committed gay couples who are members of our church. we have gay individuals who have been elected to positions of leadership. we have a gay staff member who is in a committed relationship and plans to marry his partner. in the face of these realities, we have to deal with the issue of homosexuality and same-gender marriage more honestly. the church can't make a pronouncement about the definition of marriage, flatly stating that those who disagree are not christians, and think that the issue has been addressed.
can we tell a gay member that she is qualified to be an officer in the church but the church can't honor her commitment to her partner? can we tell our gay staff member that we're willing to honor his service and pay his salary, but we won't acknowledge his husband?
some of the most conservative members are pushing for our church to leave our denomination for one that flatly condemns same-gender marriage and refuses admission to transgender persons. one person has already withdrawn her membership because she is unwilling for the church to take time to struggle with these issues and has left to search for a church that condemns same-gender marriage in more emphatic language and refuses membership to transgender persons.
like her, i struggle with whether to remain a member of my congregation; unlike her, my reason is its refusal to recognize that the church has no business telling people whom they should love and to whom they should make a permanent commitment. at the very least, the church should acknowledge that one can find same-gender marriage acceptable and still remain a christian. for now, i'm willing to wait for attitudes to change as our clergy and leaders examine this issue, but i'm not willing to leave our denomination because the national church has decided that a congregation can honor same-gender marriage. in the coming weeks, i will speak with our leaders and ask that they reconsider the decision they've made and the language used to express that decision. once i have a sense of the rigidity of their position, i'll have some guidance in making my own decision.
may we acknowledge that change often comes slowly and that there are times when that is a good thing. may we stand up for what we believe to be right, even when we're in the minority, and may we do so while respecting those with whom we disagree and without attacking them personally. shalom.