For Baptists, my church is quite progressive. Among other thing, we’ve ordained women since the 70’s, and we fought for civil rights in the 50’s. We don’t take all of scripture literally, though we do take it seriously (to be honest we’re progressive for Baptists, but conservative for the rest of Christianity). It’s these kinds of issue that make us an odd duck in Baptist life. The kind of duck that often just roams around by itself.
On the issue of gay marriage, our church has yet to figure out what we as a collective believe. If you were to ask the individuals in the church you’d get a myriad of answers. Some would argue that homosexuality should be viewed as normative and shouldn’t be an issue at all. Some would argue that the church shouldn’t embrace homosexuality and that celibacy should be held up as the ideal for persons who are homosexual. Right now the official stance of the church is that we don’t have a stance. We don’t ask straight people about their love life so we don’t ask gay people about their love life (being homosexual isn’t an issue for us). With that said, we haven’t had a gay couple walk the aisle and want to join the church. If we did then this issue would come roaring to the front and we’d have to address it when we’re not be prepared.
Throw into this mix the fact that our state court recently struck down a gay marriage ban and many are now getting marriage licenses. In our city and state this issue is more volatile than ever and as a church staff we can see it coming down the tracks and we’re disconcerted about the rumble we hear in the distance.
We’re disconcerted because we know very few churches have been able to successfully navigate these waters in a way that that doesn’t split the church or cause a large exodus (on either “side”). This is one reason I enjoyed Dave Thompson’s, “Over Coffee” (even though it was way too short and didn’t address enough issues). I could see his line of reasoning as a way forward that tries to honor the theological and scriptural convictions of conservatives and yet realizes that in a fallen world the ideal is no longer possible, and for the sake of unity to accept gay marriage in much the same way as the church accepts divorces. If that were acceptable to theological conservatives would it be acceptable to folks on the other side of the issue? How would that sound to my gay friends?
All this assumes that it’s possible for a church to be filled with faithful Christians who publically disagree on the issue. Can our church even engage in a civil conversation on this issue? Unfortunately, many of these conversations have too much heat and not enough light.
So, do you know of churches that have had a dialogue on this issue with faithful Christians who disagreed, but agreed to continue to share life together? If so, what sparked the conversation? How was it facilitated? Who lead it? What was the outcome?