Unexpected

Green Street UMCI used to make the joke that I would not get married, at least, until gay marriage was legal; the rationale was that I refused to take part in a discriminatory ritual. This was, ultimately, a joke, of course, with the obvious retort being to wonder who would ever marry me.

Setting that aside, though, let us check in with Meredith Bennett-Smith of Huffington Post, who offers us this lede:

A United Methodist church in Winston-Salem, N.C., has vowed to stop performing weddings until same-sex marriage is made legal.

Yes, you read that correctly.

But, you know, as much as we might be tempted to chuckle that it took them long enough, it really is a conundrum; the denomination holds in its Book of Discipline that, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Naturally, this makes a certain amount of sense, since the whole thing about how God hates homosexuals is spelled out in the Old Testament. To the other, though, that is hardly a definitive end to the question. The UMC does not, in its core documents, refuse to bless second marriages of people who have been divorced, so it’s hard to say that behavior incompatible with Christian teaching means those people should stay out of the churches. Indeed, the organization hopes to witness to all, regardless of sexual orientation, and has adopted a resolution in “Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism”.

The difference between theory and practice can be discomfiting, though; one must still rise to the puplit and preach to people who are excluded from full community participation. The solution really does seem obvious: Include them.

One can imagine diverse potential outcomes. Perhaps the UMC will not officiate gay marriages as a religious issue, but advocate for marriage equality as a societal and juristic question. Perhaps the denomination will include homosexuals alongside the remarried heterosexuals—not really a properly Christian practice, but minister to their souls and let God worry about the judgment. In the end, the one thing they can’t do is rewrite the Bible. And with state law and denomination rules forbidding the open endorsement and blessing of gay unions, it seems a church in North Carolina has decided to undertake the glaringly obvious, and obviously daring route.

We’ll see how this goes. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to send them your love.

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