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Don’t Protest Marriage

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

ringsThe recent, and expected, decision by the California supreme court to uphold proposition 8 has intensified the gay marriage debate over the last few days. Scenes are reminiscent of civil-rights era protests, and just like in those days, pastors are joining in.

Not far from where I live, Rev. Art Cribbs has announced that “he will not perform any more wedding ceremonies in California until the state’s same-sex marriage ban is overturned.” The article goes on to say that Rev. Art believes prop 8 crosses a boundary between church and state. [source]

Pasadena Star News has a more in depth story with an extensive comment thread here.

Let me begin by saying this protest is ridiculous. But, sadly it is not unique. Fox News (I know, I know…and I apologize in advance but I couldn’t find anyone else covering this story, and they have a video segment) interviews Rev. Susan Parker in Winston-Salem NC on her refusal to sign marriage licenses until same-sex marriage is legal in her state. [source]

Her protest waffles a bit though: She will still “bless” marriages, but she will send the happy couple to the courthouse to have the license signed. There are plenty more examples of similar protests and I encourage you to add relevant links in the comments.

Back to the insanity…

Pastors: Why will you withhold a grace from your parishioners because something the state is doing? You are only punishing the people in your flock. Your impact will be very limited in society at large, but the impact will be profound on your local church community.

I thought protests were supposed to be active? If you believe gay-marriage is valid, then a more effective protest would be to start performing gay-marriages within the church – in mind of the state’s disapproval. That’s a real protest.

The secular world doesn’t understand marriage anyway (even between a man and a woman), maybe they never will. You are basically saying “I will refuse to administer the sacraments of the church until those outside the church understand them the way I do.” Or worse yet: “I will withhold grace to an even greater degree than it is already being withheld until x,y, or z goal of social justice is met.” You are only adding to the confusion and misunderstanding of marriage in our day.

This protest only emphasizes the legal aspect of marriage and steals from the sacramental/covenant aspect of marriage. You will not perform marriages until contract law is more fair? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Imagine if pastors refused to perform baptisms until drinking fountains are installed at the local park. Or if they refused to celebrate Eucharist until wheat farmers earned a better wage. This is just as ridiculous. The church ought to celebrate God’s graces despite all the injustices in the world.

You can’t let politics thwart the Church’s actions in the world. Render unto Caesar whats Caesars, but render unto God what is God’s.

Do not profane the sacraments of the church for the sake of the state.

Open and Affirming Church

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

prop8The recent proposition 8 controversy has put the issue of homosexual marriage on the front page of both secular and religious blogs and newspapers. In a call for compassion many churches are voting to declare themselves as “Open and Affirming” congregations. The group in my denomination which greatly advocates for the rights of homosexuals in the chruch is the GLAD Alliance (Gay Lesbian and Affirming Disciples).

From their “About Us” page:

We invite congregations and other manifestations of the Christian Church to declare themselves Open & Affirming, to proclaim publicly that LGBT persons are welcome in the life and leadership of the Church. We work with similar welcoming congregation programs in other denominations, providing time and resources to advance this call for inclusion throughout the whole Church.

This is not a post for nor against gay marriage, but I would like to explore the concept of the “Open and Affirming” label as the primary description of a church. For example the twitter bio-line of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation reads (as of May 26):

An open and affirming congregation celebrating diversity with a reasoned faith and a passion for justice

When you only get 160 characters to describe what it means to be church, is this the best description? Please don’t misunderstand me. Regardless of one’s position on gay marriage, all peoples ought to be treated with dignity within the church. We ought to celebrate diversity, have reasoned faith, and have a passion for justice in the church. Amen to all of that. But where is Jesus? Shouldn’t the Lordship of Jesus Christ be what defines a church? I would be just as critical if I read a bio-line that defined a church as being against gay marriage, abortion, immigration, etc.

What does it mean when churches and congregations are defined by a political position and not by Christ? Be Open and Affirming (or not), but that is not what defines a church.

Politics will always change. Political parties will come and go. The source of bigotry will change through the ages, and social justice will be redefined. But, Christ will always be Lord. That is why we cannot let the church be defined by these things. Yes, have an opinion, and express your faith in the world of politics. But don’t let the world of politics define you or the Church.