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.

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Queer Look Podcast to Return Soon!

It’s a long story why I stopped producing the queer Look at the Bible Podcast, but the short answer is that it is about to return! Each week, I’ll look at the week’s lectionary readings from the QP (the queer Perspective, and assign each a QP ranking. That is, just how “queer” is the scripture on a scale of 1 bible (not at all queer) to 5 bibles (way way queer!). Most consider that the Bible is condemning of homosexuality, but I think what we are going to find is that the vast majority of it has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, and will score a 1bible ranking. The passages that appear to be about homosexuality will be few and score a 5bible ranking. There is just the question about what to do with the issue of passages that appear pro-homosexual, and those which appear as anti-homosexual. In terms of my QP ranking, I won’t make any distinction/ for or against, it is still queer. but I will talk about each to see what we can learn about how pro- or anti the passages might actually be.

A Queer Look at the Bible isn’t intended only for the religious, but for everyone, even those who see themselves as atheists or agnostics. But I’m not trying to convert you. You are welcome here, no matter what your faith (or lack of faith) tradition. and here is why. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, or transgendered person, the Bible impact your life today, here in 2009. Doesn’t matter if you are a believer or not. The Bible serves as the foundation of all of the opposition to GLBTQ rights, as well as many of the conservative movements, such as to deny a woman’s right to choice. The growing battle cry of this radical right movement, is Religious Liberties, as if they own the Bible, and everything in it is on their side. but they don’t, and it isn’t. and the more everyone knows about that the easier it is to see through the fallacious arguments that they put forth.

Let me say, as straight (ha ha) forwardly as I can. I am not anti-God. I am not anti-Bible. I am not anti-Faith. I just think that the Bible has been co-opted by the radical right, and t is time to take it back and put it out there for anyone to pick up and consider. And the best way to do that it to take a new look at it- a Queer Look. If I can rightfully be accused of anything, it may be that I can come across as anti-religious. Like many theologians since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story, I ask that rather than simply wearing “religious” as an adjective to describe oneself, consider it a journey to be traveled. Consider it a puzzle to be pondered. consider it a question to be asked rather than answered. I am fairly anti- those who self-righteously think they have all the answers. I certainly don’t have them. But I have and can ask and explore questions. I think that when we are willing to ask, and see where the question takes us, we can find things we never anticipated. That for me, is about hearing God.

I’m going to start by producing an audio podcast in the iTunes enhanced podcast format, but there will also be an MP# file to download for other brands of players. Each week’s podcast will be a part of a blog post that has notes and stuff I want to share. Feel free to comment here, but please be warned. I have no patience for folks who can;’t do any more than tell me I’m going to hell, or can’t say anything except to quote scripture, or issue some blanket generalized statement with out anything backing it up. I will only accept comments from real people (no anonymous postings) who register for the site. If you don’t have the guts to have a name and an email, I don’t have the time for you. But feel free to disagree with me- just be man or woman enough to represent yourself authentically.

So you ready for a Queer Look! Great! Glad to have you along!

Seeing the Full Moon… and Religion

Saw this on Twitter:

On this Friday (the 12th of December), you’ll see the biggest, brightest full moon of 2008.

Seems to me Religion serves many purposes, but one of them, and maybe the most important, although often first forgotten, is to remind us of our place in the whole of existance.  Help us orient ourselves within the cosmos.  We are amazing complex creatures but within the biggest picture extremely tiny specks…

I think that is one reason why God is so often understood or imaged as human-like with super powers. We make god in our image instead of the other way around.  But if we stop and allow ourselves to be amazed at the whole of it all, and in the same total complexcity of it all.. and then set a path of exploration to see and explore and recognize how much we don’t know.

To pit Science as against Religion is an attempt to circumvent this recognition of how much we don’t know.  To name all of it as a part of God’s plan, or intellegent design is a way to shut down the exploration, and label ourselves as in control.

Wow.  Not sure this post will make a ton of sense.  Just a few quick thoughts before heading off to work.  Leave me your comments. Okay?