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.Â “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.”Â 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.”Â 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 â€“ We have a duty to teach what the church teaches, but our conscience â€“ after much painful trial â€“ 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. Â 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.