My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), officially ratified a change in our constitution that changes the language we use about marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people”, opening the door for LGBT members of the church to be married within the church. To be clear, it does not mandate that a pastor marries two people if she for any reason thinks the two should not be married, not does it force a church to host a wedding that the congregation may not begin with. I also want to be clear that those who worked for this change did this because of their interpretation of the Bible, not in spite of it. For most of my circle, this is a big win! I’m also aware that for many of my friends, this is further alienation from a denomination they already see as moving in a direction with which they cannot agree.
To be clear, I am full support of this decision. I think it was the right thing to do. I would have voted for this change, had I had the opportunity.
So… what’s my beef now? Well… it’s not really beef, just a fear. So here’s what I think happened; this amendment passed, and when it is said and done, it will have passed by a wide margin. Why? Because a few years back, when we made the move to allow for LGBT teaching elders (pastors), the conservatives within the church saw the writing on the wall and largely decided to take their collective ball and go home. They went to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Presbyterian Church of America. That wasn’t everyone. Some were more dedicated to unity than to doctrine. Some didn’t want to leave the denomination of their youth. Some thought they could save all of us sinners. But the critical mass is largely against the folks who stuck around. The PC(USA) is now a largely left-leaning denomination.
And here’s where my fear comes in. This is already being heralded as “prophetic” decision. Meh. This is the way much of the country is moving. Don’t get me wrong, as with any civil rights movement, the role of the church cannot be ignored. But I don’t see us as way out front. We did a good thing. We did the right thing. We did it because that was the way things in the country are moving anyway. We’ll be at odds with some in the global church, and if that was a larger part of the conversation, I would be interested, but we’re in line with mainstream America. We’re not “Ellen”. We’re that episode of “The Walking Dead” from a couple of weeks ago, the one with the gay kiss that made me go “meh”.
Our next step will be the conciliatory statements to those who are hurting over this. That’s good. We should be caring for our brothers and sisters. Then what? We’ll go to the next general assembly, pat ourselves on the back, and say “ok, we just did this big thing. Let’s chill out for a bit on the ‘social change’. Let’s move too quickly on anything else”. We’ll let the new status quo sink in. The voices will cry out in the wilderness and we’ll let them, but we won’t invite them to the table. We’ll do damage control for those who have hurt feelings, ignoring the fact that our past discriminatory practices hurt more than feelings.
How about we don’t do that? Why don’t we own our new, left-leaning make-up, and take courageous stands on the prison industrial complex, the horrors of capitalism, or the continuing re-manifestations of white supremacy of which our church is a part? Let’s sell some buildings and put the money into community development projects and micro-financing. Let’s use our denominational structure to create a new economic system that doesn’t create winners and losers. Let’s take a stronger stance against guns. Let’s eliminate our carbon footprint as a denomination. I don’t just want a church that now allows for married LGBT friends to hide with us behind our fortress walls. I want to see genuine shalom, authentic community… I want to see the reign of God, not in piece, but in whole.
I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.1 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I don’t want to see us let our communal foot off the gas. Let’s keep pushing for progress.