St. Peter's Blog 'Same-Sex Marriage' from St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – North Wales, PA's Blog

Same-Sex Marriage

Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015
Author: Pastor Andreas Wagner

Some considerations ahead of our forum and conversation abot same-sex marriage on June 21 after church.

Earlier this year we learned from the Survey and the Church Assessment Tool that our congregation is theologically diverse (something that didn't surprise me at all!). Our church community consists of some who think more liberally and others who hold more conservative beliefs. Our pews are filled with folks who have slightly differing ideas when it comes to social values, questions of faith and interpretations of the Bible. I have said a number of times to our council that I like it exactly that way. I think this diversity can make for interesting conversations. It requires us to foster a culture of listening and respect for the views of others. And it prevents us from ideological fence building, something that often happens when a congregation self-identifies as "liberal," or "conservative". Personally, I would rather stay clear of those labels when we talk about the church and ministry of St. Peter's. I would hope that our identity far exceeds those boxes.         
Every once in while this diversity - and the unity that we enjoy in our common belief in Christ, - are put to the test by decisions about so-called "wedge issues," topics that are controversial and emotionally charged. Same-sex marriage is one such issue. And it's not a theoretical topic or one that we can or should in good conscience avoid. Last year, same-sex marriage was made legal in Pennsylvania. It is now legal in the majority of states in the US. In June of last year, our bishop wrote a letter to all rostered leaders explaining the implications for our church. She wrote: "Pastors cannot and will not be required to preside at the marriage of any couple, opposite-gendered or same-gendered. Yet we need to also keep in mind that pastors are not free agents; they are called by congregations and in some cases by the synod council or the Churchwide organization. Pastors should have conversation about their approach to this issue with their congregation or calling body."
So, I started a conversation with our council at our Sabbatical meeting in March and we, the leadership of the church, invite you to participate in an in-depth conversation about the topic on Sunday, June 21 after church (10:30 - 12:00 noon). Depending on your response and the tenor of the conversation, this may be the beginning of a few such conversations or it may just be the main event. It really depends on how many people show up, how many questions people have and how much of a hot button issue it is for you, the body of Christ at St. Peter's. So, if at all possible, please join us for conversation on that Sunday after church (and before Father's Day brunch)! Our council leaders need to hear from you.
Now let me share with you what my approach to the question is. In my own spiritual and theological journey, I was for a long time skeptical regarding the affirmation of homosexual relationships, almost exclusively because I could not reconcile it with certain passages of scripture. At the same time I realized that sexual identity simply isn't something that people can choose or fundamentally manipulate. This realization has only deepened over time, especially as I met same-sex couples who have been together in loving relationships for years and decades.
Now I feel a little bit like Peter when he heard about the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit, one of the turning points of the early church (Acts 10). Peter exclaimed: "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"We tend to read these passages without realizing how offensive this was to the way things had been done in Jewish culture and religion up to that time. The early church broke with several taboos, and it wasn't always clearly based on Jesus teachings or on scripture (re)-interpretations, but, as Luke tells it, led by the Holy Spirit. I believe we are at a similar turning point. How can we refuse the blessing of marriage to those who have demonstrated their desire and ability to form a loving, lasting relationship (often time more so than heterosexual couples)? You may disagree with me and I will respect it. In fact, I respect thoughtful disagreement more than thoughtless agreement (as in: well, these are the times...).
No matter where you stand on the issue, please join us on June 21. There will be some additional literature available, but mainly we would like to have a chance to hear you out, because you are God's people and your discernment is important to me and the leadership of your church.

Pastor Andreas Wagner           


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