Church and Marriage

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There are a lot of changes a foot in Kansas and in the nation. The latest is same-sex marriage. On November 18th a local Disciples of Christ minister’s photo was in the newspaper. He was downtown supporting same-sex marriage, marrying couples that wanted to be married, and had his stole on that announced he was a Disciples of Christ minister. The paper just a few days earlier had already quoted another local Disciples of Christ minister as being supportive and willing to marry same-sex couples.

Because of these two clergy, everyone, especially non-Disciples of Christ people, assume that all Disciples of Christ congregations and all Disciples of Christ ministers support same-sex marriage. It is difficult for Christians (Disciples or not) to understand our concept of diversity and autonomy in the life of our congregations. To jump on the bandwagon (even when it may be long overdue) without considering all sides of any argument, usually brings hurt, anger and division. When I look at the two ministers featured in the paper, one probably has the support of their congregation, the other one does not. I think this is reflective of Disciples congregations across the globe. A few are supportive, a few are very much against the idea, and the majority are somewhere in between.

Hillside Christian Church is taking this whole process slowly and deliberately. We are having conversations within the life of the church. The whole conversation is more than a political conversation. The conversation must involve a Biblical understanding, a medical understanding, a social understanding, and even a humanitarian conversation. Isn’t it odd that Hillside probably has more gay and lesbian members than the other two churches combined. It comes as a shock for many congregants that there are gay members (most silent) in every church.

I was asked in a Board meeting where I stood. It is not a simple response. Ministry is not black and white. If a same-sex couple came to me and asked to be married, that had never attended Hillside and had no relationship with the church, I would say “no.” If on the other hand, a member of the congregation who I had pastored for many years wanted to get married, I would be open to it. Of course, only after they had gone through pre-marriage counseling. Part of this comes from a philosophy that I accepted at the beginning of my ministry. After pre-marriage counseling, I am not always confident in the long term success of a couple, but if they still want to marry, I will perform the ceremony. My performing the ceremony doesn’t necessarily mean I am supportive of any union. I would rather have a couple married in the church as opposed to the courthouse.

One thing is certain, same-sex marriage is here to stay. The issue seems to be divided on generational grounds. People under 35 (the Millennial Generation) are overwhelming supportive of same-sex marriage, where many who are much older are struggling. One thing is certain, time will change things and the Church. Now, how will the Church deal with it?

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