There's been a storm a-brewing here over the past few months. Following the legalising of ''gay marriage'' (I despise that term...after all it's not like I'm going to announce I want a straight marriage is it), there has been much debate about where church and state intersect on this issue.
This post starts from the point of view that there is a God, so if you're of the agnostic or atheist persuasion, probably not much point in reading on, just sayin', unless you'd like a (loosely) theist view. Similarly, if you are in the 'gay is not biblical'' camp (haha) you're probably going to find this a bit confronting. Anyhoo:
Most churches (or church leaders) have been fairly quiet on this issue. A couple have been ''openly embracing'', such as that previously led by my friend Matt, and the location of this country's first gay wedding (read about it here). And the group that has been the most noisy, and it would appear, the most divided, are the Anglicans - the church of my own family.
To cut a long story short, the Vicar at my family church has left the church (read: invited to reconsider his employment) as he feels most strongly that marriage between same sex couples is unbiblical, and he will not therefore support it. The whole church has voted to leave with him and it happened today. For me, this issue is further muddied by the fact that the Anglican church actually agrees with him according to this article and yet still he is leaving. It's all very confusing, and in my view, rather caught up with the passion of a preacher who is with out doubt an intelligent, measured and Godly man and his loyal (albeit also godly) community, but messed up by a bunch of other moral issues that frankly, I think have no place in church.
I'm not quite sure why this particular issue upsets me so much. I've talked it through with people on both sides of the fence (in every sense of the word) and still I find myself, ultimately, deeply offended on behalf of homosexuals and all others who have been marginalised by the Christian church. It shouldn't matter so much - after all, I'm not gay, nor is any of my close family, and in fact most of the gay people I know aren't really rampant campaigners of issues like this - they are simply getting on with life, like I am.
So here's the thing that worries me about this: A few decades ago the world, with full support, even leadership, of the church, based on it's biblical interpretation, embraced slavery. It also disapproved of (among other things) inter racial marriage, people getting divorced, children out of wedlock, divorced people remarrying, and women preaching. For many, alcohol and gambling were, and are, considered unbiblical practises. Some denominations, like Catholics, beleive that it's biblical for priests to not marry. Due to the tireless campaigning - and it could be argued, the call of God - from a few, we no longer tolerate slavery, would be horrified at someone opposing a marriage between people of different races, and not only welcome divorced people and single parents in our church, but gladly allow them (even women, gasp!) to remarry AND if they are called, to be ordained as preachers, healers and teachers. For some reason that I can't fathom, these things don't feature on the unbiblical list any more, even though the Bible is quite clear that these things should not be allowed.
So for those who say that the homosexual law reform bill in the 80's was the thin end of the wedge, that gay marriage is the next step in this moral decline, and what, goodness me, will be next, I suppose one could argue that they were right all along. If only we'd not let women start preaching, let deserted women get a divorce, and worse, get another go at marriage, and kept those floozies who had babies without husbands well away, then maybe the world..would not be in the state it is in now. Maybe they're right.
But what if they aren't right? What if allowing, encouraging and welcoming these marginalised people (and yes,by definition I fit in more than a couple of these categories), has in fact enriched the church, made the Christian community more open, accepting, loving and a reflection of the true people in the world? Then what? Is it really OK to say, actually, all of these things are OK but gay marriage is not? Seems a pretty thin argument to me. And if in fact, those campaigners were wrong, and in fact ''the church'' shouldn't have allowed all this moral decay in, in the first place, then where the HECK does that leave me!!??!
Frankly, I'm offended. Deeply offended. We are saying, if we go with the 'gay is not godly'' argument, that it's OK to choose which things are now acceptable to God and which aren't. We're saying that the people who felt called to campaign for those other things (lets assume God did actually lead them here) were Godly, but the ones who want to lead the way with welcoming homosexual people into our church, are not. And for those whose argument goes like this: ""oh we're not saying gay people can't be in our church, in fact our church even HAS a couple, but we don't believe they should be allowed to get married"", then it follows that either a. we believe that being gay is a choice (yeah right) and then they can just change and we're all good and they can marry a person of the opposite sex if they want to, or b. they can be gay but not act on it.
(Lets not even START on the argument of being able to change persuasion. or worse still, the numbers of actual gay people (some of whom I know) who are stifling those feelings because they want to believe its ungodly not to.)
None of this seem to stack up with the argument that we are all made in Gods image. Particularly when the Bible is SO big on marriage (per se) being important and that we are designed to be in union and that sex is normal and healthy and needs attention (yeah it really does say that, look it up)
One could argue that ended up a divorced single parent means I wasn't made in Gods image too I suppose. I'd say that it's probably not Gods ideal that this is what I am - assuming I need to actually identify by these labels, which I don't -but He thinks I'm OK anyway (or actually he's got bigger fish to fry than worrying about my marital status, moral compass or perceived lack thereof). It may well be not God's ideal that lots of his people are gay. But they are. No one is arguing that homosexuality doesn't exist. Any more than they are saying infidelity doesn't. Or divorce. Or drinking too much. Or that in some places, there simply aren't any decent men preachers but there's some darn good women ones. And all of the people affected by these things were made by God too right?
Like I said, it's all very confusing and difficult and fraught with emotion. And worse still when I learn today of an entire church who has upped and left with their leader over this issue. That grieves me. I don't want to have to explain to my children why they can no longer attend that Sunday school (actually it doesn't exist any more because the minister left over something he felt so strongly about and the congregation went with him, but I don't agree so I won't be following). AND I don't want them to be the next generation of people who judge people (yes people it is judging it just is). According to this church's website they welcome all people - and they list all the things like race and marital status and so forth. But not sexual orientation (they have a programme to sort that out which is another reason I want to run, run far away from there).
So, the bottom line for me is this: I'd like to think that if I get married again, God will be fine with it even though I'm a divorcee. That if I felt the call to preach, He'd be OK with that too. (Actually I have worked in ministry post marriage and to date no smiting has occurred). That if I had been that girl unlucky enough to get pregnant but not have a husband I wouldn't have been cast far away. That if my child turns out gay (also, early indicators suggest highly unlikely) God would love them anyway - or not actually mind either way. And if that child fell in love and wanted to get married...to acknowledge their relationship BEFORE GOD, He'd be pretty happy about that too.
To get another perspective, jump over and read this fantastic blog. And as always, I wait with anticipation for you to post your comments below.
I acknowledge that regardless of the outcome, this has been a very distressing time for my parents as they have been part of this church since it was built (were in fact on the fund raising committee), married there themselves, and brought my brother and I up through Sunday school. Please note that this post represents my own opinions only and not that of anyone else in my family, nor is it intended to judge them in any way.