The Presbyterians are in town. Let me be more specific, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is holding its General Assembly in Detroit. I had hoped to get down there, but the week got beyond me and I didn't make the necessary arrangements. That said, the Presbyterians made the news today -- in voting overwhelmingly to allow Presbyterian clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages where they are legal. Of course, this must now be ratified by a majority of Presbyteries across the nation.
This action on the part of the Presbyterians is, of course, a welcome one for those of us who live on the progressive side of the Christian faith. A growing number of us, including myself, have come to believe that it is time to open the definition of marriage, which the Presbyterians did, to recognize that while a majority of human beings are heterosexual, not everyone is. Therefore, it has become clear to many of us, that when called upon, we should make legal marriage available to consenting adults of the same gender.
Now, many will ask about the way in which scripture is read/interpreted. Aren't there texts that condemn same gender relationships? On the surface, the answer is yes, but then many other things are condemned, like eating shellfish or pork, that most Christians don't bother with. I will add that, when we approach scripture and its apparent prohibitions we shouldn't take a flippant view. We can't just say -- well that was then, this is now. If we do, then we lose credibility with other texts that have deep meaning. Instead we must do the hard work of reading the text -- a new. And there are growing numbers of books that do just this, even ones written from within an evangelical ethos (like Ken Wilson's A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor's path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender in the company of Jesus or The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart. The latter book just came in the mail, and I've not had a chance to read it.
Others will suggest that it's not natural or that it's not been done before -- overturning traditional standards. But just remember, it wasn't that long ago that the same thing was said about inter-racial marriage.
But, this I can say -- I want to commend the Presbyterian delegates for taking this step. It grants freedom to churches and clergy who feel called to move forward on marriage equality. It doesn't require any congregation to do anything that would go against its own understandings, but it does open things up for others. As for me, my denomination doesn't prevent me from officiating, though my state does not currently allow legal marriage (an earlier judicial ruling is in limbo), but the time will come and I will be asked and I will say yes.
So, let us rejoice that another barrier has been removed to the full inclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who welcome the opportunity to marry those they love. And by the way -- if you're in and around Troy, Michigan on Saturday evening -- be sure to come to Central Woodward Christian Church for our Welcoming Diversity Concert and Photo Exhibit.