The story of Brian McLaren officiating at a “Commitment Ceremony” appeared recently on a Christianity Today blog.
Comments on some other blogs I’ve read expressed, predictably, some varied responses to this story. I’ve seen Brian called both a heretic and an infidel for doing this, and I’ve also read of people sympathizing with his actions.
Without addressing whether or not I agree with Brian’s decision to officiate at this ceremony, I do want to say this: There is something important about standing up with the people you love, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
When Rev. Jeremiah Wright caused a stir awhile back because of his public remarks about America, Barack Obama was not quick to denounce his former pastor. He was disapproving of the statements made by Wright, but also said he refused to turn his back on the pastor in whose church Obama came to faith in Christ (you can read about this experience in Obama’s autobiography).
Many people were angry at Obama’s words, and felt he should cut Wright out of his life. But Obama kept love in tact while denouncing Wright’s comments. I saw integrity in that position. Political expediency did not win out this time.
I’ve spent some time with Brian McLaren over the last few years, and I like him very much. His writings have helped me in my own journey, and I’m grateful for his thoughtful responses to challenging issues. I view him as a brother in Christ. That doesn’t mean that he and I would agree on all things, but universal agreement is not necessarily a prerequisite for love (my Mom and I disagree on a number of things, but we still love each other).
I wonder what I would have done if one of my children had come to me and revealed their attraction to members of the same sex. And what would I have done if one of them announced a plan to wed a same sex partner? If I stood up and walked them through a ceremony of commitment (perhaps one that called them to faithfulness, challenging them to embrace the full ramifications of what it means to be married), would that be tantamount to an endorsement? Or would I be doing what a father who loves his children does, even if such an act ran cross-grain to my own convictions?
I do not find easy answers in these kinds of situations. But I do believe that love requires responses that violate the sensibilities of many people (the Gospels reveal many stories about Jesus that support this). The world in which we Christians minister is more complex than many people imagine.
And love often gets us in trouble.
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