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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Gay Marriage in the New Zealand Methodist Church

Okay, so today I am feeling really angry, or maybe just disappointed  ...

I discovered that the President of the NZ Methodist Church has sent a letter to all congregations.  This letter explains that each individual congregation needs to make a decision whether or not they are willing to hold gay marriages in their church.  Methodist Ministers can make a decision independently.  Now, I have to admit that I haven't seen this letter for myself - so if I'm on the wrong track I would LOVE for someone to correct me.

First off I thought it was kinda 'nice' for
congregations to make decisions for themselves.  I am open to the fact that change takes time.  But then I remembered that the Methodist Church in New Zealand has already been split over this issue.  Lots of people left when they decided to allow ordination of gay people.  So I thought that the Methodist Church has already decided to fully include gay people in the life of the church?????  Apparently not.

To me excluding gay people from getting married in the Methodist Church says ...

We love you enough to let you sit in the pews ...
We love you enough to let you be ordained ...
BUT we don't love you quite enough to let you get married ....

If the church is representing how God loves God's people ... how is this communicating God to people within the church and, some would argue more importantly, outside the church?

If I was a gay person looking for a Methodist Church to attend.  How would I go about this? Do I have to ask if I'm welcome.  Do I have to check to what level am I welcome to participate?

Imagine you are a young person who has grown up within the Methodist Church with dreams of someday getting married in front of your home congregation.  As time passes you become aware that you are same-sex attracted.  You get older and start forming serious adult relationships.  You met 'the one'!  You want to get married ... what do you do then?  You have always been welcomed at your church, you have participated fully but at one of the most important transitions in your life - the church closes its doors to you.  How do you feel?  How does that effect your faith?  How does that strengthen your relationship with your partner, your family, your church with God?

I just wish churches would be more honest.  If they think being gay is a sin - make that clear to people coming through your doors.  Don't welcome them to turn them away later.  That is just ... well ... nasty.

It reminds me a lot of a blog post I read recently.  It's called the 'The Accidental Opressors'.  This stuff is much bigger than a discussion about who we welcome into our churches ..

The actual conversation is not how to better love LGBT people because they are sinners. It is about whether or not Christ-centered marriages between people of the same-sex are immoral. Sinful. Missing the mark. If you’re not talking about that, you’re having another conversation entirely.
The talk about Jesus being friends with sinners is nothing new. Conservatives have argued the exact same thing, but they also note that after Jesus stopped the stoning of the adulteress, he said, “go and sin no more.” Which is, as I see it, a more consistent and clear argument. This is what flops “Jesus friends” analogies and the “just love” convenient theology, because progressives omit the last line.
But the good news, unless you believe otherwise, is that we gay folks are not sinful because we are gay- so we need not be told to “go and sin no more.” As my friend,Nathan Kennedy, aptly put it, “I have many reasons to ask for mercy and grace, to identify with the woman caught in adultery and confess my sinfulness, but being gay isn’t one of them. We can’t go forward if we’re constantly talking about God’s love for sinners meaning gay people.” (tweet 1, 2)

I also think the opposite is true.  If your church is welcoming of all people SHOUT it from the rooftops!  There are many, many people out there that need to know about it.  I am so thankful there are people like peeps from Trinity Methodist Church in Napier - they have decided not to discriminate and be a shining example of God's love for everyone.  (Click here to check out a local article about their decision).

Having grown up in the Methodist Church in New Zealand and still a regular attender, I struggled for some time trying to decide if I should work towards ordination within this denomination.  There are so many wonderful things I love about being a Methodist.  However, how can you minister within a denomination that cannot even agree to decide if they want to FULLY welcome ALL people?  Too many barriers for me ..

1 John 4:17-18 - The Message

To Love, to Be Loved
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgement—is one not yet fully formed in love.

Want to read/think/act a bit more about this issue. A good start would be to read A pastoral response to the unhealed wound of gays exacerbated by indecision and inarticulacy by Yolanda Dreyer 

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