In response to the Supreme Court decision about marriage equality, we are going to try something radical at my church. Actually, what I should say is that we are going to continue to try something radical, as it is what God’s people have always tried to do:
We are going to live, worship, and serve together as the people of God.
To put it another way, together by God’s grace we will continue to live out our Mission Statement:
“Empowered by the Holy Spirit, We GATHER, GROW, and GO.”
So here’s the statement I made to my congregation (edited for written clarity) on Sunday. The positive response it has received so far reflects my hope – and belief – in our congregation’s ability to live out such a “radical” response:
Since Friday’s Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality, my conversations in person and on social media with members of our congregation have confirmed what I thought would be the case: Many of us greet the outcome with joy. Others of us are at least disappointed. Some – perhaps most – of us don’t have strong feelings either way, or are even wondering, ‘What Supreme Court decision?’
The “official” position of our denomination (ELCA) is that folks are free to disagree as they follow their “bound conscience” about these matters. Some of us believe that loving our neighbor means in part including in God’s great gift of marriage those who find love and meaning in a relationship with someone of the same gender. Some believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Others are somewhere in between or are undecided. But none of these positions is required to be an ELCA Lutheran (or a Christian), any more than the same conclusion is required on other issues (especially political issues) about which we may differ, but which should never divide the Church.
In the midst of our disagreements about this or any other matter, let us remember what unites us. We stand together at and under the cross of Christ, joined as one body by the Holy Spirit, and as brothers and sisters by God’s grace poured out in baptism. We have been freed to love and serve each other – regardless of our differences – and to share Christ’s love with our neighbors, no matter who they may be.
Sure, we disagree about issues around sexuality, but the truth is we differ about so many other things. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and I don’t know of any family where everyone agrees about everything. And yet, we are still family.
In my church, we have young earth creationists, believers in intelligent design, and folks who think God uses evolution to achieve the great variety of living things. We have folks who believe in the rapture, and those who conclude Jesus is coming back once for everyone. Some among us practice abstinence when it comes to alcohol, and others of us appreciate that we are a denomination that descends from Martin Luther, who loved to discuss theology over homemade beer. We disagree about lots of theological fine points, and just plain don’t understand others. (What does it mean in the Apostle’s Creed when it says Jesus “descended into hell”? I can give you a bunch of different theories and disagree with myself!)
We have liberals, moderates, and conservatives; democrats, republicans and independents; and many who don’t care about politics.
And yet by the grace of God we’ve managed to be the body of Christ in this place and time, loving each other and striving to reach out with the Gospel of Christ’s love to our community and beyond. There are – and will be – times when everything is not harmonious. Sometimes we get it wrong individually and as a congregation; thank God we are saved by God’s grace and loved by God no matter who we are, no matter what we have done.
That’s where we find our unity – in our salvation by God’s grace through faith. We are united in our sinfulness and in our helplessness to save ourselves. We are united at and under the Cross, and gathered as Church by the Holy Spirit. And we are united in mission, to love and serve each other, our community, and the world as the Body of Christ.