Marriage Equality & the Christian Church: Challenge & Opportunity not just those on the religious right, who so often speak in a tone that seems far from evangelical. As you struggle with how to be relevant in the years ahead, figure out what you have to say about marriage equality that is truly good news. If it can't be heard as good news by the GLBT community, chances are you haven't figured out what to say yet. Listen until you have good news to share. #8 Remember that the Bible is both deeply human and deeply holy--and sacred precisely because it sits at that intersection. Fundamentally rooted in human history and culture, this text seeks to bear witness (imperfectly--see "deeply human") to a people's holy experience of a God who is quite bigger and even more surprising than the Bible itself ... which is something the Bible tries to tell you. The only way to use the Bible (on any issue) in a manner that really respects it is to keep both dimensions in mind. And, please, start trusting that your members can deal with this. Clergy haven't done anyone any favors by trying to keep all the scholarship to themselves. #7 Admit that if civil unions are offered up as something "just as good" as marriage--but without the word "marriage"--that's only to ensure they're never "just as good." If you want "marriage" to mean only church-sanctioned unions, then (a) quit signing the civil paperwork for anyone and (b) take up the issue with Mr. Webster (or whoever is the current guardian of the English language). You can quibble about this as a theological issue until you're irrelevant if you like, but in the civil realm it's a justice issue-- period. Bottom line: naming is an act of power. Either share the name or be honest that you're trying to withhold it as a power play. #6 Be careful about your ecumenical alliances. Talk about strange bedfellows! Some churches have struck up pretty cozy relationships with other churches in trying to keep marriage exclusively straight when not long ago the same churches were calling each other sects, cults, or worse. Remember, Pilate and Herod became friends while getting ready to kill Jesus ... #5 Be authentic with your global partners. Some of you worry that denominational partners elsewhere will not take kindly to any "pro-gay" stances. Yes, this is a sensitive issue around the globe, but for decades western church bodies have had pretty paternalistic relations with their global partners; now, to suddenly be so concerned about their differing views smacks of cloaking your own prejudice with their worldview. No one said being evangelical was going to be easy. Figure out where you stand and be authentic and honest with your partners around the globe. #4 Do NOT talk about the "need" to preserve unity--either within your ranks here in the U.S. or around the globe. The burgeoning pool of blood from CHRISTIAN - Continued on Page 16 A by David R. Weiss s more states allow same-sex couples to marry churches find themselves in an awkward position. (Granted, six states hardly counts as a groundswell, but the number has tripled in 2009 alone, and Iowa is so far from either coast that it signals something about a shift even in middle America.) American Christianity as a whole, across denominational lines from conservative to liberal, must increasingly reckon with the fact that it has failed either to prevent this significant social drift into immorality or to lead the way toward greater justice. That said, because this struggle is far from over, there is yet time for churches to respond in ways that would make them relevant not by pandering to social change but by demonstrating wisdom, character and leadership in a historical moment still fraught with ambiguity. Whether they actually do this is a long shot, but I am hopeful that at least clusters of parishes here and there will step up, and for them I offer here my nine-point "evangelical agenda" for meeting the challenge and opportunity of marriage equality. #9 Remember, "evangelical" means good news. The word belongs to every Christian church, | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | July 2009 |