A Journey of faith within the church, the culture and the world
Monday, April 1, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage and Ministry
According to a recent TIME cover story, the fight for same-sex marriage is close to being over. A CNN Religion Blog article reveals changing attitudes toward homosexuality on the campuses of Christian colleges. With an increasing number of Americans—especially younger Americans—declaring their support, it’s probably all over except the final state and federal blessings.
The debates, however, are certainly not over, especially in the Christian community. And the debates are challenging. Do we stand firm in our traditional convictions, or do we, as some have argued, wake up and join the movement of a culture that may have already left us behind? The questions are difficult and are fracturing Christian communities and denominations.
If, indeed, the marriage ship has sailed, maybe some other questions need to be entertained, regardless of the position that is held regarding same-sex marriage: What will ministry look like in this new landscape?
There are a number of possible future scenarios to consider as well.
A married, gay couple walks through the doors of your church. Is there room on the cross for them to put their hands next to yours and mine?
A child comes to our Sunday School with a neighborhood friend. When his two mothers show up to visit, will that child be able to share his church with them?
When your state approves same-sex marriage, will a gay couple be able to find spiritual counsel at our churches when their relationship hits the rocks?
When a gay couple moves into the house next door to mine, will I be able to answer the question: Who is my neighbor?
The church has had to deal with difficult questions before. In the early days, the first Jewish Christians had to come to grips with Gentiles who were being encountered by the Holy Spirit, but lacking a Jewish identity. It took them a while to learn how to be one family of faith. Not too long ago, divorced people had a tough time finding a place in the church, and the church didn’t know (in general) what to do with them. Now we do ministry. Many churches have divorce recovery groups, and have learned to explore the depths of God’s love, forgiveness, and grace when it comes to remarriage. Some—but not all—have even worked through the issue theologically.
We will inevitably, regardless of our position on same-sex marriage, have to deal with the ministry implications of this sea change in our culture. That the culture is rapidly changing is indisputable. And while culture influences our perspectives on our faith, it cannot be the sole criteria for interpreting our faith. Culture is, however, our context for ministry.