[There have been a number of important events in the United States these past two weeks, and I have been struggling to decide which one to discuss first. It seems that once I have reflected on a topic, another significant event takes place that warrants study and discussion. I have at last settled on the post below. Other important issues will find their way in subsequent posts.
I want to begin today’s reflection with questions I have discussed in the recent past: what is the purpose behind a church community, and what should a church community look like? Near the end of last month, I reflected on the latter question (you can click here to read my May 28 post on the topic), and not long before that, I reflected on Peter’s willingness to accept non-Jews into the Christian community (click here to read my May 18 post). On May 28, I wrote, “the ideal Christian community would be as diverse as the surrounding population is diverse.” On May 18, I wrote, “Christians have the obligation to show everyone the love that God gives to all of us.”
A Christian is obligated to show Christ’s love to everyone; therefore, a church community ought to be the embodiment of this mission. Also, a Christian church community should meet the spiritual needs of its members.
Tradition and Law
For a lot of Christians, this is where they get stuck in a complex web of tradition and law. They know what culture has dictated in the past–they expect traditional acts to occur in specific ways because that is how things have always been done–and they know what specific Bible passages say concerning every aspect of life.
Such and such is right because in specific passages the Bible says such and such. Christians love clear and irrefutable answers to difficult questions.
A Court Ruling that Has Changed the American World
On June 26 of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal in all fifty states. This ruling only applies to U.S. governments, so it has no impact on church rules. Nevertheless, Christians are talking about the decision. The General Convention of the Episcopal church will likely discuss possible changes to its policy on marriage very soon, and I have read comments attributed to several Episcopal representatives who voiced clear support for change. Representatives of other denominations have already expressed outright rejection of change: they point to biblical passages that clearly define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
Should Christian Churches Institute Gay Marriage?
During the past few days, I have spent some quiet time asking God this question. Whether asked from the liberal or conservative Christian point of view, one answer keeps sounding in my mind again and again: if someone has chosen to follow Jesus, then the church must embrace that person.
It is not enough to only welcome that person during Sunday worship, however: a church community has the obligation to support its members throughout all major life events. Would a Christian church community ignore someone’s tears when a loved one passes away? Would a Christian community turn away someone who has lost a job or a home? And what about the joyful times? Shouldn’t a loving church community celebrate the day when a person’s prayers are answered or when someone’s illness is cured? Shouldn’t a church community rejoice when a member of the congregation is moved to volunteer for a ministry? All Christians need a loving church community throughout their lives, not just on Sundays, and gay Christians are no exception.
Intimate relationships are also a vital part of every human’s life, and within those relationships are spiritual needs that only a loving religious community can support. If gay couples are called to follow Jesus, how can a church deny them the spiritual support that is offered to everyone else? The Gospels show that the apostles were astonished when Jesus met with all sorts of people outside of the traditional Jewish definition of who was safe to hang around. After The Lord’s resurrection, the apostles were moved to accept gentiles, criminals, even people who killed Christians. With such a diverse list of people that the apostles were willing to embrace, why would modern Christians insist on limiting the community membership?
A Selfless Love
It is important for me to emphasize that I am referring to gay couples who choose to follow Jesus Christ. There are many gay couples who prayerfully make this choice, and If a gay couple is called to follow Christ, then isn’t it right to assume that God has already settled the matter? Why would God attract people who are not worthy to be part of a loving community? If a gay couple has chosen to abandon self-centered living and join a community of love, then how can a church say no? And if two gay people meet those criteria and wish to live the rest of their lives together as both spiritual and physical partners, then how can a church deny them the sacrament of matrimony?
Marriage is a term reserved for a selfless love, the same love that comes from God, the same love that fills the entire universe, the same love that the church needs if it is to survive. I know gay couples who possess and project this love–it is time for the church to accept that God’s love exists within all of humanity.