Lots of people disagree with my biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality (among other things). As a pastor who has officiated a wedding for two women, I’ve had the biblical conversation many times. I told my husband this morning that I could exegete those “gay” passages in my sleep.
But beyond the question of biblical interpretation, another interesting moral issue continually reemerges as I listen to conversations about my choice to officiate “the wedding.”
What about church unity? If you want to marry gay people, why not just be part of a denomination that will let you marry gay people? Why do you have to come around causing problems in the Mennonite church? Can’t you see we’re just trying to be peaceful and mind our own business?
Here’s the thing, though–I am not United Church of Christ or Presbyterian or Episcopalian. I am Mennonite. Anabaptist to the core. I will not baptize babies. I will not put a flag in a place of worship. I value simplicity and discipleship and community. And if I get to sing a few hymns in four-part harmony every week, that’s a bonus! I want my life to mirror the life of Christ, and I cannot find any other group of Christians that encourages me in this pursuit as well as the Mennonites.
And here’s the thing–there are so many GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) people who also want to follow Jesus in this way. They want–they need–a Mennonite community as much as I do. It breaks my heart to know of sexual minorities who cannot find a faith home because the churches that most resonate with their souls will not welcome them in the fullness of who they are.
And here’s the thing–the Mennonite church needs the graces and gifts of GLBT folks as well. It breaks my heart to think of the wonderful leadership, music, art, ministry that the church is missing out on because we do not fully include GLBT people. (I wish you all could know Randy Spaulding and Sarah Klaassen.) At a recent preaching conference I met a young woman pastor from United Church of Canada. When I told her I was Mennonite she said, “Oh, I have a lot of lesbian friends who used to be Mennonite.”
And here’s the thing–from my perspective, according to my reading of the Gospel, anything less than full inclusion for gays and lesbians in our churches is an injustice. More than that, our failure to embrace and support sexual minorities is a rejection of Jesus’ way of love. It is to side with the religious powers that be–some of whom make good money off of their tirades against gay people–over and against the radical message of Jesus.
Here’s the thing–as a Mennonite, my faith legacy is littered with trouble makers–from Jesus, through the early Anabaptists, to the war resisters of the 20th century and the peace activists of today. Causing problems is in my spiritual DNA.
And here’s the thing–I do value the unity of the church, believe it or not. But it’s not true unity when a segment of God’s children are excluded. It’s easy to create unity when you only let in the people that agree with you.
Here’s the thing–I think most people in the Mennonite church are seeking to interpret scripture faithfully. I think most of us long for the fullness of God’s goodness in the church. I think most of us want unity, but not at the expense of integrity.
So here’s the thing–the real thing–according to Jesus:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.
By God’s grace, may it be so.