Churches On The Side of Equality

It is easy to characterize all of Christianity as opposed to LGBT issues and the gay civil rights movement, but this would be both inaccurate and hurtful to the many people of faith who work, sometimes quietly and sometimes more blatantly from within various church traditions. One of the most recent to be cast into a spot light is the United Methodist congregation at Dunbarton UMC in Washington DC. I have been to Dunbarton, but it has been years and years ago, and one of my best friends is someone I met because of Dunbarton. I also remember another Methodist minister, the Rev Jimmy Creech, who the Methodist denomination robbed him of his ministry because he had the courage to do what he felt was right and marry a same-sex couple.

So often, we see the issue of same-sex marriage, as being a civil issue, and the DC Marriage ordinance is a prime example of that. However, it is also a spiritual matter, and the debate exists within the church as well as within the civil society. And that brings us to Dunbarton United Methodist Church in DC.

Clergy at Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown said they will conduct same-sex weddings despite the denomination’s ban against the practice. “As a pastor, I am called to extend care and grace to all people even as Jesus did,” said Rev. Mary Kay Totty, pastor of Dumbarton, in a statement Wednesday. “We celebrate love and loyalty wherever it is found.” Dumbarton’s Church Council had voted last month to “honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in the District of Columbia, who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage.” No other Methodist congregation in Washington is sanctioning gay and lesbian weddings, according to Dumbarton.

This is a very big deal because the United Methodist Church does not allow same-sex marriage and forbids its pastors from performing these ceremonies. Will the paster, like Jimmy Creech and others before, be let go, and removed from the ministry, or will the congregation, which feels it is acting on the right side of Faith prevail?

Without much difficulty, it is possible to find people who fall on either side of that issue. John Meunier sees the congregation’s actions from the perspective of ethics, and deems them acting in relation to a conflict of error:

Error – We have a duty to teach what the church teaches, but our conscience – after much painful trial – is convinced the church is wrong. Here we have a case of error. Either the church or the individual is wrong. Both cannot be right.

By “church” here, he means the denomination, and by individual, he means the congregation.

However, Ray McDonald takes a very different approach. He sees the Hebrew Scripture story of Daniel as offering the answer, and summerizes:

I believe that the law of God is far superior to the law of the state…

For McDonald, no distinction is drawn for Church Law as if it has any potential to be different than God’s Law. Like many Christians, McDonald is too caught up in the Old Testament to remember that the followers of Jesus are not bound to the Laws of Moses, but he likes the easiness of condemnation of homosexuals. I believe that the congregation at Dunbarton believe they are aligned with God’s Law as well as the Law of the government, and see the Church law as unaligned with the Will of God. McDonald concludes:

Those who call themselves after Christ will face persecution from within and from outside the church.  We will be held in contempt in the courts of the land for standing up for Jesus and Biblical truth.

And while I don’t agree with him on much, I do agree that the real issue here is Biblical truth.

From the time, about 30 years after the death of Jesus, the point of it all has been Faith in Christ, but for today’s fundamentalists, Faith is not enough, and they are holding out and pushing for a “Biblical truth” that does not and can not exist. Truth is a product of Science and the evaluation of facts. Where as the very notion of the Christian Faith is Faith and belief where no facts exist or matter, and thus, there can be no single truth. Biblical truth is the position that the Bible is factual as written, a position that can not hold up to any real investigation.

So , this is the discussion or debate that Dunbarton has entered in a bigger way than ever before.

Peace and Love to this brave congregation.

Read more:

Gay Marriage: Failing Both Sides?

The subject line of this blog entry caught my attention and I dug into what is a very good read! I’ve been neglecting to post here on Queer Look at the Bible, so I thought the religious quality to this post and ideas lent itself to QLATB nicely.

First, I really appreciate Eugene’s honesty and what comes across as his authentic faith journey surrounding the issue of Marriage Equality. On the one hand, I wish there were more ministers willing to risk, as Eugene is, and share what their process of discernment on this issue is. but it is plain why that isn’t/won’t happen. Look at the criticism and hatred Eugene receives from other so-called Christians.

One reason I started Queer Look at the Bible, was because I have experienced feeling called to ministry in a very big way. However, I left active ministry ( I was only a lay minister and preacher) and decided against seminary, when I realized that I felt like an imposter. I was asked one Sunday to give the sermon at a small church north of Pittsburgh. After sitting through the Sunday School and talking to the church members, it became very clear, that if they had known I was gay, I never would have been invited. I left feeling “dirty” and dishonest, even though I said or did nothing dishonest at all! But I realized that I didn’t want to fight from the inside like that. There were other ways to minister than struggle to work within a denomination that really didn’t want me, even though my home congregation loved, supported and wanted me to continue.

It isn’t God that’s the problem, but rather some of God’s flock of followers. That’s what I came to understand, and what Eugene has come to experience as well.

My favorite biblical character, or at least one of them, is Saul, who was renamed Paul. Here was this guy, a devote and intense Jew, running around persecuting the early Christians! Until one day, where he has a conversion experience! Everything as he knew it… everything, changed for him that day.

Imagine what it was like for everyone around him, who had known him forever, and for those for whom his reputation as a persecutor preceeded him. What do you think his old rabbi buddies would have said to him? What would have been the emails he received (if email had existed then)? Would he have been called a coward, and a bad example of a Jew?

I tend to think that conversion experiences still happen, and little by little woman and men come to see a bigger picture set before them by a God. All that they thought they know about righteous living can get turned on its head. and those, not really open to god, who wish to blindly cling to whatever seems to rationalize everything for them will get pretty angry.

Eugene started his post talking about how, announced that they will release the names of petitioners. He wonders if this will backfire. In other places where this has been done, it hasn’t backfired. It has brought the bigotry out into the light. For example, in Arkansas, when this was done, it was learned that many people had been mislead about what they were signing.

My suggestion to you, Eugene, is to just keep following your path, trying to sort out how to “love God and love People.”

gay marriage: failing both sides? « eugene cho’s blog.

Lectionary Reading for March 5, 2009

Waiting for the California Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 8

Mt 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

How Religion Fails us- Covenant Marriage

This post may seem politicaly based, but I decided to post it here due to the religious motivations behind the law being discussed in this linked blog.

This is a story about something called Covenant Marriage, a type of legal marriage began as an attempt to stem divorce rates, begun in Lousiana, but now available in several states. My purpose in writing about it is to illustrate the ways in which conservatives apply a double standard when it suits them.

You can follow te link at the bottom to the full story. I have pulled out some stuff, and it is displayed as quoted text, and the rest are my comments/text.

The Definition of Marriage may not be re-defined!

The first line of attack towards same-sex marriage is that it would be redefining marriage, as if the definition of marriage has never been re-defined. Covenant Marriage is one example of a redefinition of marriage. While it remains a marriage between a man and a woman, it is still a different definition and type of marraige. If there can already be 2 types of marriage with 2 different sets of rules or qualities how would adding another destroy the definition of marriage?

The definition of marriage is biblical and may not be altered!

There are 2 sets of scripture often used to justify marriage as between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve as the original husband and wife (even though I’m not sure the Bible ever says they were married), and the words of Jesus. Jesus was actually talking abot divorce, and the passage ends with te idea that who God has joined no one may tear apart. Interestingly, even though the Bible says there can be no divorce, Covenant Marriage allows for divorce.

Ending a marriage is still possible, though no-fault divorce is eliminated, and grounds for divorce are limited. They include physical or sexual abuse (of either a spouse or child), infidelity, a felony conviction or abandonment.

Note, that sexual abuse is an acceptable reason for divorce, and yet rape is not an acceptable reason for abortion (according to some such as Governor Jindal of Louisiana). where conservatives draw the lines varies even where the Bibler does not. Why must the Bible be followed literally at times and at others it can be modified?

Don’t use the government to advance social change!

When legislation is advanced that gives GLBT people more rights, it is attacked as an attempt to force social change upon people- or blamed on activist judges. Covenant Marriage was developed by a professor at a law school and a congress person. The purpose? To advance a social agenda.

…an attempt to strengthen the family and protect children.

Critics called it a potentially dangerous injection of religious belief into a civil commitment…

The sky will fall!

Conservatives have a very hard time predicting the results. They are sure that if same-sex couples can marry, that all hell will break loose. They were also sure that Covenant Marriage would take off big time, and it has totally not happened. It hasn’t done what it set out to do, and has not been embraced by the american people, even in some of the most religious states.

Then-Rep. Tony Perkins, R-Baker, predicted, “I think in about a year a majority of couples will make it [covenancy] part of their marriage plans.” Today, nearly 12 years later, the total has edged closer to 2 percent. Nor has covenant marriage reduced general divorce rates. In 1997, when covenant marriage became law, 13,836 divorces were granted in Louisiana. In 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), the divorce total was 15,230.

Gays want special rights!

“Louisiana has elected to confer special benefits on covenant marriages, such as a 10 percent cut in auto insurance rates,” wrote Pat Buchanan…

So it is OK to provide special benefits to some but not others. How hyocritical is that?

Being gay is a choice!

If gays can marry, then there will be no limits, anything goes!

According to our opponents, being gay is a choice and therefor, we do not deserve to be a protected class. But the truth is, choice makes a difference. Straight couples who chose Covenant Marriage, had a lower divorce rate. These are couples who actively chose to define their relationship as special and more than just being together.

Though covenant marriage has had little effect on divorce as a whole, those who opt for it do have lower divorce rates.

But so many of the gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage are already in a committed relationship. They are chosing to define their relationship as more than just being together.

For gay and lesbians don’t mean it! They are only doing it for the show!

…then-Gov. Mike Huckabee ­— who, though he was an ordained Baptist minister, did not “upgrade” his own marriage at the time. And Bush and his wife Laura chose not to upgrade their own. Later, Huckabee did in a very public way. Columnist Margaret Carlson saw the $65,000 spectacle as a political ploy: “If moral values helped President Bush win the White House, why not Gov. Huckabee?

Don’t force tour ways on the American people!

Though the 2008 Republican Party platform made no mention of covenant marriage, the Texas GOP platform called for it, along with the complete abolishment of no-fault divorce, as well as making it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple ­— this despite the fact that during the 2007 Texas legislative session, a proposed covenant marriage bill failed to clear the state house.

Covenant Marriage is an idea that some want to push on the American people, who have shown that it is not their choice. And even though it has been shown not to create the desired results, andhas not been embraced, even in religious states, conservatives don’t give up.

But Perkins says he has not given up. “When the Jindal administration gets through some of these challenging times,” he says, “I hope they’ll focus on some of these family laws.”

The Independent – I Don’t

A Question of Love

Not a long post today, although I owe you one.  Found this video clip of Keith Olberman’s commentary about the election and Prop 8 in California.  He expresses some of the ideas I have so eloquently.  Namely, that as recently as 1967, our next president’s parents would not have been allowed to marry in 1/3 of the states in our country because it was illegal for a black and a white to marry.  As recent as 1967!


Take a look:

Post Election Thoughts

This is more of a rambling post than most of my posts- though you might think they are all rambling.  

And most likely this post is less geared towards this Queer Look at the Bible blog, but hopefully as I write, it won’t seem that disconnected- unless I run out of steam or decide I’m not sure what I am saying.

As much as it was exciting to see Obama win, it was disappointing to see all the bans against gay marriage pass. Not really surprising but disappointing none the less. Are queer people to become the “new” acceptable victims of discrimination?  So, no, it isn’t all that new, but perhaps we are coming up against the last big (the last??) hurdle until we have greater equality. And here is where I see this blog as important.  As the Bible and religious views are the weapons being used to support the discrimination, there is no better time to keep adding voices to the dialogue about the Bible.  We do not need to dismantle any belief in the Bible, we simply need to recontextualize it- shine a light in it to see more of it instead of less.

As a kid I remember being afraid of going down the steps to my grandmother’s basement.  There was a scary area to the right of the steps, and it was as if something  could hide in there and get me.  The older I got, this became less as I was able to see more- walk under the steps and into that area on the right- which was just storage.  The area didn’t change, just my perspective, the context from which I considered it.

A call for queer visibility is nothing new.  National Coming Out Day has been around for a while, and we have known that as you let people know you are gay, their fear of gay people disapates.  but we are still a fairly invisible group.  Not so much invisible as easily blended into the background.  Well camoflauged. And that may need to change.  Our visibility needs to grow.  Our ability to demonstrate our economic power needs to grow, and our ability to frame the issues as equal rights needs to grow.

Yesterday, I saw a post to Twitter, where someone- a strong Obama supporter- was calling gay marriage an abomination.  But s/he was estactic that Obama was winning.  This agent of change, this man, a product of a mixed race marriage was being hope to America.  It would not have been too many decades ago, when a mixed race marriage itself would have been called the abomination!  How big of a change is that?  And are people willing to begin to see and accept these historical uses of the Bibble as a weapon?  

What do you think?