I have long evaded the call to write on the current debate concerning LGBTA rights/rites and marriage.
Today I was sedated for a medical procedure and warned not to do anything that would impair my judgment. What an invitation! Throwing caution to the wind, here is a summary of some of my thoughts on the whole LGBT, church and marriage thing. My thoughts have been long reasoned, they are not in question to me; it is the decision to publish them that some may judge hasty because of how I may alienate some folk – but that’s okay – I’ve done that before!
I am well acquainted with the Bible bullets from Leviticus and Paul that assert a sealing of the argument against any consideration of allowance for same-sex relationships, let alone marriage. I am also aware of the fulness of the sacred text that steers us wondrously, attentively and engagingly through encounter with the Spirit of the Living God. The same who has moved us through rough, tough times of cultural immaturity to the application of divine love distilled in the gift and example of Jesus of Nazareth. This movement is not static. It is, to borrow Bruce Sanguin’s words, intense, immense, intimate and intentional. That, alongside the teaching of Jesus and the living dynamic of the Christ, is a touchstone by which, at my most attentive, I decide who I will include or exclude (and thus exclusion by attitude, stance, manner or word, hardly gets a look in, except when I’m weak.)
Hardly an era passes that does not seek to redefine it. Biblical marriage must take into account a variety of forms that include polygamy, concubinage, Levitical constraints regarding widows, and others. Contemporary laws are founded on medieval property and succession provisions that hardly rate a mention in today’s wedding service. Regarding same-sex unions, I was, for a long time, of the “Go ahead, but call it something other than marriage” mindset (which was a cop out given the intensity and context of the debate’s passion – dismissive of pain and isolation experienced by the excluded.) Many a legal marriage between a man and a woman today reveals the highest expression of human love around which the legalities of property, offspring, and extended or blended families find their nurturing and nurtured relational place. The same can be said for many informal arrangements that do not come under the heading of marriage. However, society continues to place marriage as the highest aspiration and expression of life commitment between two adults, increasingly regardless of gender. This is a sociological observation. The Church is at its best when it continues to be a touchstone for sacralising society’s deepest human commitments.
But surely your denomination has a stance?
We will take stances on many things and often be at odds with each other – but we agree on the uniting call of Christ that can hold the tension. Our guiding principle is the ancient maxim – “In things essential unity; in things non-essential, liberty; in all things, love.” Membership is based on trust in Christ alone, as revealed in the Scriptures. Our 200-year history has seen us speak with strong voice on abolition, even though some owned slaves. It modeled female leadership in its educational institutions and eventually its pulpits. It harboured a strong pacifist movement during the great wars. It works hard for a just outcome for the treatment of asylum seekers and dignity for Aborigines through recognition and just reparation. That it should seek to embrace those whose sexual orientation has banished them for so long is seen by many as a priority of justice over theology – which is odd, as ultimately all sound theology points to justice in terms of shalom.
Will I stand by this when the sedation wears off? You better believe it!!
ROY G. BIV