Posts Tagged ‘Same Gender Marriage’

A Broad Tent United Methodist Church?

October 11, 2016

I am a second generation Methodist/United Methodist clergy. My father, a United Methodist Elder, served in the Methodist/United Methodist Church for thirty three years. I was born into the Methodist/United Methodist church, was baptized in 1959 and confirmed and became a full member in 1972. My journey toward ordained ministry was similar to my father’s. I spent a good deal of time running the other way from my calling, finally entering the process toward ordination at the age of thirty-two. At this date I have been in pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church for twenty-four years. All this simply to say, I am a lifelong Methodist/United Methodist of fifty-seven years.

I share this writing as I watch our United Methodist Denomination continue to struggle to stay united and one. I wrote a blog sometime back about the United Methodist Church’s official position on same gender relationships, and while this date’s writing may take a gentler tone, I remain firm in my views on that position.

I write this day wondering about the future of the Broad Tent United Methodist Church under which I grew up. There are many, not unlike myself, who have used that language to speak to inquiring persons as they ask questions about our denomination, as well as long time members who are on the journey to better understand who and how we are in the church. Language that speaks to the truth that we are not a creedal church, language of a Broad Tent denomination where there is room for a breadth of conservative evangelical members as well as liberal progressive members. I have heard those words from conservative evangelical and liberal progressive lay persons, clergy, and bishops. We are a Theologically Broad Tent denomination.

That being said, this writing is about two primary and current topics in our denomination. One is the bishop’s commission being created to study our current disciplinary language regarding human sexuality and in particular our church’s position on same gender relationships. If we are indeed a church that is of open door, open heart, open mind…if we are indeed a church with a theologically Broad Tent of belief and practice, I am troubled by the apparent makeup of the commission. The makeup of the commission as of this date appears to be twenty-one clergy, eight of whom are bishops, and eight lay persons. Theologically speaking I do not know the makeup of the commission. However, to have an imbalance of clergy to laity seems to me to strike at the heart of who we are as a denomination. Our Annual Conferences and our General Conference work hard at equity and equal representation. Not to mention we are creating a commission to determine a recommendation about how the church will move forward in relation to our LGBTQ members, and though I do not know the orientation of any of the suggested commission members, our LGBTQ members are not mentioned and I would assume then, not included. An unfortunate exclusion and rejection once again with LGBTQ persons on the outside looking in having to wait for someone else to decide whether they are welcome or not. Such exclusion from the commission is unjust and not in keeping with a so-called Broad Tent denomination. It grieves me and I can only imagine the pain and anger my LGBTQ friends and colleagues feel.

My other concern with our long championed notion of a Broad Tent theological denomination is in regards to a recently formed group, The Wesleyan Covenant Association. I think it is wonderful for like-minded Christians to gather together to share ideas, theologies, purpose, mission, and worship. I do that on a regular basis. I am a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network, and my affiliation with this group feeds my heart and soul whenever we gather in prayer, worship, conversation, and brainstorming ideas. My concern rests with the portion of their covenant that would appear to nullify the Broad Tent denomination we have long claimed to be.

In referencing the bishop’s commission a portion of their statement includes the following: A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the “local option” around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.

While I would agree with the beginning words that a plan should not compromise their principles and understanding of scripture, I would hope the same courtesy would be offered to those who embrace other understandings of Scripture which shape principles and practice. The portion of the statement that would allow for a Broad Tent, i.e. “local option” around ordination and marriage, as not acceptable, would indicate that no longer would we consider a Broad Tent understanding to be tenable. I pray this would not be the case. To lose this sense of a willingness to live in community, with Christians, United Methodists of all stripes; conservative evangelical, liberal progressive, straight and gay, to lose this community with a broad understanding of theology and practice grieves my heart and at least in my life and faith would diminish our denomination’s appeal and work in the world around us. I have served eight congregations in my twenty-four years of ministry and have cherished each and every one of those congregations, none of whose members all agreed with me, nor I with them one hundred percent. Still I am committed to the belief that diversity and a willingness to acknowledge difference and still work together participating with the Spirit in bringing the Kindom here within and among us is a gift and a grace of God.

I hold our United Methodist Denomination in The Light of prayer and the Spirit every day, all of us, because I still believe in the hope and grace of the theologically Broad Tent denomination in which I was raised and in which I serve. We are all in this together, at least that is my hope and prayer. Perhaps in 2018 we will see how it all turns out. I pray there is still a place for all of us, for my more conservative evangelical friends and colleagues, a place for me, a place for my LGBTQ friends and colleagues, a place for inclusion and grace. I pray.

May it be so. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little

Living Together

July 6, 2015

Simeon and Mozart, for the most part are good buddies. They wrestle and play together primarily in the backyard but now and then get started in the house and have to be invited outside. They can be found hanging out together side by side on the living room floor or sitting shoulder to should on the deck keeping watch. Every now and then though, and it tends to happen around the presence of some kind of edible thing, they get into it. They fight, and I mean really fight. They have been known more than once to even draw blood before I can get them separated. It is bound to happen I suppose, to some degree they are a bit like our human children, well hopefully with the exception of drawing blood, they can get along really well and then something sets one of them off and here we go!

I suppose on one level or another humankind tends to reflect that nature as well. Though it is always my hope and prayer we can find a way to rise above such things. What started this whole reflection was my presence at Phillips Theological Seminary the past two weeks. I have begun a journey into doctoral work and I found the first on campus session challenging, refreshing, and energizing. The program focus of my studies will be Collaborating for Change, a program designed to enhance leadership, study, preaching, and bringing a wide diversity of thought and position to the table, so to speak, to bring about just and compassionate social change.

We were there when the recent Supreme Court decisions were released and they caused much cheering, discussion, and reflection among us. It was heartening to be in a religious setting with various Christian denominations and find celebration and solidarity among other colleagues and new friends.

Of course it did not take long before the media began covering the decisions and hearing not only affirming commentary but dissenting views as well. I remember thinking, as it seems I too often do in recent years, how sad it is that we cannot disagree without being civil and respectful of one another. There is a broad range of disagreement on the decisions and so many other things. Everything from religious freedom being attacked, to the destruction of marriage, to the notion that God is going to rain wrath, vengeance, and destruction down on the U.S.A., as if slavery, racism, and the genocide of native peoples were not good enough cause for righteous destruction but somehow health care for all and civil rights for same-gender couples is.

A question was asked of us as we prepared to leave the last day of class in response to a video we had watched by Jim Wallis, “What questions are tearing your heart apart now?” The question is a challenging one. Challenging because though I have numerous things I could site in regards to an answer, how does one journey down to the core of what underlies all of those responses?

In thinking about answers, at least at this point of my journey, at the core of all that I see as broken in our world and especially in our country, is the need to find the other as less than. From the very beginnings of our country there have been those we have persecuted, denied rights, slaughtered, driven from their land, put on reservations or in internment camps, written out of equal protection under the law, and legislated discrimination against. And as time and history goes on it is apparent that many if not most of these efforts to identify the other is not just an individual injustice but built into the very systems of our government, society, and culture.

In Jim Wallis’ video he made a statement that resonated with this thought, “We can’t just keep pulling bodies out of the river without sending someone upstream to find out who is throwing them in.” Or perhaps to be specific about a current issue, We can’t just keep pulling down confederate flags, we have to find out why our system supports a racist symbol. Or perhaps, It’s not enough to just keep saying, ‘We don’t hate LGBTQ persons,’ we have to find out what it is about us as individuals, as a society, and culture that continues to belittle and see our brothers and sisters as less than.

I wish Simeon and Mozart would be as passionate and energized about resolving conflict as they are at proving which one is the boss. They will continue to do well together and they will continue to fight and do damage now and then. That’s their nature. But I do not believe we as human kind are bound by such instincts, we can rise above the vitriol language and hate, if we will work hard enough together to make it so.

Those are the things right now that tear at my heart. I am not oblivious of the fact that with 322,583,006 people in the U.S. we are not always going to agree, but somehow must learn to live as if all really are created equal. Somehow we must not only quote, but believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal words, “We must learn to live together and brothers and sisters, or perish together as fools.” Somehow we must find a way to live out that call of the Spirit to practice what we preach and create a world of Justice, Kindness, and Humility, even when we disagree.

May that day hasten to be. May it be so. May it be soon!
Pastor Kent

Bigger than the Supreme Court

June 27, 2015

I have been considering and pondering all that has happened over this past week and am compelled once again to put my ponderings in writing. The final decision released this past week was on a challenge regarding same gender marriage bans. The Supreme Court of the United States found in favor of same gender marriage in all states across our great nation by a five to four vote.

It is important to remember in the context of religious thought and communities of faith in our nation that freedom of religion has not been threatened by this decision. There is nothing that happened within the walls, doctrines, and disciplines of the church that affects us. Those communities of faith and clergy who wish to affirm and participate in marriage ceremonies will continue to have that ability and those who do not will continue to have the ability to refrain, religious freedom has not in any way been threatened by the courts.

This decision was a civil rights decision based on our Constitution which does not consider the religious persuasion of its citizens but rather equality in the eyes of the law. I appreciated Justice Kennedy’s closing of the decision,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

This decision is about basic civil and human rights and it is the right decision under the laws of our Constitution and our great nation.

While this is a huge step toward a more free society and culture and a much needed one, not to mention constitutional, this move is bigger than the Supreme Court. For me, as a leader in the church it is about social change, cultural evolution, and social justice. This decision for the church is not only bigger than the supreme court it is bigger than marriage.

While in my own United Methodist Denomination my ability to be in ministry to all of God’s children continues to be undermined by my own Disciplinary rules, I continue to stand within its bounds and work for change. This decision of the court causes my heart and soul to rejoice with gratitude for our system of government as well as gratitude to God. I believe this is participating with what the Spirit is already about in our midst. It saddens me that our civil law and government seem to be more in tune with what and where the Spirit is about among us than in my own church.

This decision is bigger than the Supreme Court because it affirms that hope that was already in place, that hope that was already being lived out among those who simply longed for the same rights as I have as a heterosexual of privilege and standing in culture and the church. It is bigger than the Court because it speaks to the will of the people, it speaks to an ever increasing awareness of justice and right, it looks to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and states that although that “arc of the moral universe is [still] long, it [continues] to bend toward justice.” Thanks be to God.

As I consider the ruling it occurs to me that the decision is not only bigger than the Supreme Court, it is bigger than marriage in and of itself. Granted it allows the same rights and privileges under the law for any and all married persons now, and for that I rejoice with all my friends and family who have longed for this day! But I also think of my LGBTQ friends and family who are single and who may or may not choose to enter into a marriage relationship. This decision, while it revolves around the rights of those who wish to proclaim and have their marriage recognized, it also honors and empowers those who chose to remain outside of a married relationship. This decision also honors and affirms who they are with the same civil rights and access under the law I had prior to my own marriage.

This past week was an incredible week of justice and freedom for all on so many levels; the ACA affirmed once again and millions continue to have access to health care for which they may not have been eligible before, here in Kansas a court stating our legislature’s school funding was unconstitutional and hopefully requiring them to provide adequate funding for our public schools, recognition that the Confederate Flag is a too long standing symbol of racism and hate, and of course the decision Friday affirming same gender marriage across our great land! We should celebrate and relish the joy and victory.

I would caution us though, on two different levels. One is that now we have celebrated let us not become complacent in thinking the work is complete. We do not have to look far in our journey of history to know the law of the land does not change the condition of the heart. The Civil War ended in 1865, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, and just a few days ago nine innocent people were killed in cold blood for no other reason than the color of their skin.

We don’t have to look far in our journey of history to know the rights of women were well settled in law years ago, and today are still seen by too many as somehow inferior, not worthy of an equal wage, or incapable of making their own healthcare choices.

We don’t have to look too far in our journey of history to recognize the dangers of violence and the use of weapons designed for nothing but death, institutions and care designed to help those with mental illness, and too easily accessed firearms and cuts to healthcare to know Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and too many others have stained our history and lives.

We have to acknowledge our place in history that says in this moment, we are in a state of incivility in a supposed civilized nation. We have to make a change.

Our work is not done until not only the law of the land continues to evolve toward justice, compassion, and peace, but our hearts must be transformed as well, the heart and soul of our country, our society, our communities, and ourselves as individuals. Our work is not done, vigilance is required, action is needed, and silence is still not an option. Racism, sexism, gun violence, fear of the other, bigotry, and hate are a cancer on our country and world and the only cure is justice, compassion, and civility, the only cure is love.

Finally, there are a lot of people, friends, family, a lot of God’s children just like us who are hurting and struggling with this cultural shift, and it would not bode well of us to gloat and be haughty in our success. I would say, as tempting as it may be, even toward those who have been hateful toward us. For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” We as a community of faith are called to grace, to live into and live out the gospel of love for all. So let us continue the work of justice, and of kindness, and of humility as we work alongside the Spirit of God in bringing the kindom here, on earth.

In closing I will share a prayer I learned this week as best I can remember it,

“Go with God. Go in Peace. Wage a little peace. Love one another…ever single other.”

May it be so. May it be soon.

Peace and Light – Kent

2015 Great Plains Annual Conference ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVERSE BELIEFS REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY

June 13, 2015

I have had questions about the actual petition, for those who are interested in the Petition Approved by The Great Plains Annual Conference asking our General Conference of the United Methodist Church acknowledge our differing opinions and to remove the restrictive and discriminatory language in our UM Discipline here is the petition as amended and passed by by our GPAC today. The portions with the strike through are the language that would be deleted and the bold is what was added.

PETITION 7
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVERSE BELIEFS REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY
Financial Implications
None
Rationale
Since 1972 the United Methodist Church has taken increasingly firmer positions opposing non-
heterosexual orientations. Attempting to make all United Methodists conform to traditional beliefs has not
decreased denominational tension. This petition attempts to relocate decision making to the appropriate level, i.e. Annual Conference and Pastors, and ease tension.

Whereas the United Methodist Church has been gradually centralizing control in matters of ordination, candidacy, and pastoral authority as regards “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” and

Whereas
the 2012 Book of Discipline(BoD) asserts that pastors have the authority to determine who to marry
(¶340.2a3) and Annual Conferences have the authority to determine who is qualified for ordination (¶330, ¶335), And

Whereas
our Doctrinal Standards are silent on sexuality but explicit in quoting John Wesley that “As to all
opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think,” (BoD, ¶102) and

Whereas
scholars in the United Methodist and other Christian traditions have made coherent cases that loving,
monogamous relationships including same-sex relationships can be affirmed without jeopardizing the authority of Scripture or “strik[ing] at the root of Christianity.”

Therefore, be it resolved
that the Great Plains Annual Conference petition the 2016 General Conference to amend the Book of Discipline as follows:

1. Paragraph 161F: “…We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

A significant majority of United Methodists continue to hold the long-standing belief that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching, while we acknowledge and respect differences in opinion on human sexuality. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

2. Paragraph 304.3: “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

3. Paragraph 310.2d footnote 3: delete paragraphs 1-3, (ending with “…affirms its high standards) and 8-9 (from “The General Conference has made it clear…” and ending with “…against persons because they are single.”). The remaining footnote references Wesley’s Questions and the final two paragraphs.

4. paragraph 341.6: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

5. paragraph 613.9: “To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of the UMC “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends” (¶161.F). The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented.”

6. Paragraph 2702.1: “1 A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶370), local pastor, clergy on
honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in ¶2702.4) with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse;(i) sexual misconduct or (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or (k) racial or gender discrimination.”

Implemented by
Secretary of Annual Conference

Submitted by: David Livingston, Kent Little, Kurt Cooper, Nancy Brown, Jerry Feese, Kate Johnson Martin, Brian Sutton, Andrea Paret, Jamie Norwich McLennan, Jack Dutton, Shelly McNaughton-Lawrence, Sandy Simmons, Jan Rhind, Cynthia Meyer, Nancy Liston, Loren Drummond, Karen Nyhart, Linda Stoker, Joey Hentzler, Kent Melcher, Linda Miller, Cynthia Walley, Debora Cox

Supreme Court Decision Same Gender Marriage, Letter to the Editor October 8, 2014

October 8, 2014

I applaud the decision of the Supreme Court to deny gay marriage appeals, though as of Wednesday of this week it appears the struggle is far from over. As a person of the Christian faith I hope one day rights and privileges afforded me and my spouse will one day be granted to all LGBTQ persons as well.

Though there are religious communities who do not embrace full inclusion of LGBTQ persons and same gender relationships and marriage, which is within their freedom of religious rights, there are growing number of us, the community I serve included, who are in full support of equality in our communities of faith.

But this is not just a religious matter, some say it is a state’s rights issue. Same gender marriage is an issue of rights, however, a state does not have the right to discriminate against a couple simply because of their orientation. When a state passes a law that is unjust, discriminatory, and not in keeping with our constitution the Federal Government should step in and provide for civil and equal rights under the law.

I look forward to the day soon when the law banning same gender marriage is overturned here in the great State of Kansas and civil and legal rights are restored to those who have been denied and discriminated against. May it be soon.

Rev. Kent H. Little, Senior Pastor
College Hill United Methodist Church

Incivility, Hobby Lobby, Refugee Children, Equal Rights, and Gunslingers

July 17, 2014

I have had a rant coming on for some time now and it began bubbling to the surface today so I turned to my favorite form of therapy, writing, if you choose to read this once it is completed you may carry on, I will have gotten it off my chest for a while. I suppose one explanation is it depends on “whose bull is being gored” as the saying goes, it just seems to me the level of incivility of claiming and taking away rights has risen to a new level of late. We have passed laws giving corporations the same rights as individuals, more rights in some instances, and as I look on and encounter the news, media is a whole other blog; it just seems to be getting worse.

I acknowledge there is incivility, vitriol language, hatred, etc. expressed among politicians and even toward our presidents from various factions of our citizenry over the years. Though, at least since I have taken an interest in the political process over my fifty-five years of life, I do not believe I have ever read about nor seen the level of obstruction, hatred, and incivility like that directed at our current President Barack Obama. I do not agree with everything he has done or is doing, but that does not affect the fact that he is my/our president and the office deserves the respect of the people. Blatant personal attacks, racist comments, and outright bigotry should be unacceptable whether we are talking about President Obama or former President George W. Bush. I just don’t get it I guess.

We have a Supreme Court that, at least in some cases in my opinion, it seems the wheels are coming off. From decisions that would somehow justify the doing away with affirmative action because racism no longer exists… as if. The current Supreme Court that would give businesses the right to deny providing particular parts of health insurance if it is against their deeply held religious beliefs, which opens a huge can of worms. We continue to pass laws regulating women’s healthcare choices and reproductive rights and I keep wondering why there is not the same level of regulation on a man’s reproductive abilities, as if I didn’t already know the answer; something about the beast of patriarchy still trying to raise its ugly head.

We hear over and over again the chorus from so many about how we are a Christian Nation, which we are not and never were intended to be, but this same voice would send refugee children back to countries where they are abused, tortured, and killed. Other voices threaten to shoot them if they cross our borders all the while our own politicians using them for political pawns rather than finding compassionate and just ways to care for them.

There are lawmakers and churches, continually trying to revive laws that would allow businesses as well as government entities to discriminate against same-gender couples and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons simply because they are who they are or because of who they love. Not to mention churches, including my own beloved UMC, who continue to claim all persons are of sacred worth and welcome, unless you are LGBT and want to be married or feel a call into the ministry. It’s time to end discrimination and violence of word and deed toward our LGBT sisters and brothers.

I see images of people who would rather stockpile weapons and walk through department stores with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders rather than require background checks, gun regulation, or admit we have an addiction to violence, guns, and war in this country! It is time to acknowledge more guns are not the answer to violence.

This is just a short list really of what I see going on in our country today. A list of things that seem to be getting more and more amplified as time goes by. I hear so many saying our current president is trying to take away our rights and those same who condone taking away the rights of those with whom they disagree. It seems a vicious circle and some days it seems as a nation we are regressing to a time of dark and violent days.

But every now and then I see a glimpse of hope and hear a voice of reason. Every now and then someone stands up to the patriarchy, sectarianism, intolerance, and injustice. Every now and then someone rises up and says, “Enough is enough!” I heard a speaker once say that in our national political atmosphere the pendulum swings from one side to the other, it moves to the left for a while, pauses in the center, and then moves to the right for a while and so on. I want to say, “Swing baby swing, it’s time!” Part of me wonders, with all that I see as wrong in the world, if these crazy unjust laws, and this incivility are but the last gasp of a dying era, one last grasp at power before it finally fades into nothingness, I pray so. Every once in a while I think I see it starting to move back to the left, hasten the day I say, hasten the day!

I have come to think I may not change many minds, though I pray I might influence those who are still wrestling, as I work to make my corner of the world a little more hopeful, just, compassionate, and loving, but if nothing else I pray my voice will lend encouragement and courage to those of like mind who have not yet found their voice and place in the struggle. Justice, kindness, humility, and love will prevail of that I have no doubt and because of my confidence in just that kind of world immersed in the Spirit of God, I will continue to stand and work, and speak, and encourage others to do the same until that day when Love is the Rule and not the exception. May it be so and may it be soon!

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

May 21, 2014

ImageI remember the day the young man I had never met came to my office with an idea about a presentation. His enthusiasm and passion for his life and topic were rather contagious, though I admit I was a little hesitant to agree to his idea as I did not know him well at the time.

 
Matthew had left school at Harvard to immerse himself in research regarding the bible and homosexuality. He wanted to make a presentation at our church and invite the whole community. I suggested I visit with our church board but I was sure it would be more than welcome in our community of faith.

 

After several visits it was decided he would present his research to our church members first, as a rather practice run if you will, I shared with him our community at College Hill United Methodist Church would be very open and interested in his research and journey. Once we had that event under our belt we would promote a larger event to invite the larger community with the hopes of having persons attend from not only a progressive theological lens but also conservative.

Both events went very well and I can say Matthew’s research and presentation is one of, if not the, most thoroughly researched presentations regarding the passages in the bible that address same gender relations I have ever heard or read.

His new book God and the Gay Christian is not only an extension of that excellent academic work of his first presentation but is accessible and readable by all manner of persons regardless of their academic training. Matthew presents his research in a personal way that invites the reader in to really hear what the bible, its culture, language, and writers had to say in those ancient texts as well as what they might have to say to us today.

Matthew’s book invites us into ways of thinking and understanding that are both faithful to the biblical text and compassionate. Our churches must move into a more graceful posture rather than continuing to do harm to persons of “inestimable dignity and worth,” as Vines says. His words struck a sobering cord with me as I read, “In the final analysis, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.”

If you care about the church and its future, if you care about those around you who are children of the Divine, if you want to know what the bible actually has to say about same gender relations, or wherever you are on the theological spectrum regarding “God and the Gay Christian,” this book is a must read. I highly recommend it. Thank you Matthew for this gift to the church! Mostly thank you for you and your commitment, grace, and witness to the love of God for us all.

Peace and Light for Your Journey,

Rev. Kent H. Little, senior pastor
College Hill United Methodist Church
Wichita, KS

I Attended a Wedding Tonight

March 18, 2012

I attended a wedding tonight. It was held in a classy room decorated in oranges, reds, and green. There were small fish bowls on the tables with live goldfish swimming unaware among pink jewels that tinted the water. Glasses and a bottle of champagne were placed at each table and message of love and romance graced chairs here and there randomly found.

Along walls and over the dance floor there were mirrors that made the room look some bigger than it actually was. The dance floor was covered with a white cloth and on a small table there sat a several containers one empty to be filled later by the couple with colored sand found in other containers on the table. Down the center aisle laid a runner of satin waiting for the wedding party to process as we sat in anticipation of the time to start.

Along another wall was an assortment of goodies from punch to mixed nuts, mints, fruit, crackers, cheese, and other wedding appropriate fair and finally a table with a display of wedding cupcakes awaited the reception.

Grandma was the first to be ushered in and found her designated place. Then came the one who would officiate the ceremony followed by the flower girls, the ring bearer, attendants and finally the couple we had been waiting for. The couple was escorted each by their parents and took their place at the front to share their public commitment and their love for each other.

The official, obviously touched by this time of celebration, pastorally shared a bit of their story and how they had come to know one another, become friends, and finally to know they were meant to be, to be together forever.

They shared vows of faithfulness, of commitment, of grace, support, compassion, and love. In the midst of their vows they promised to trust in God and one another to keep their love true and faithful. The couple exchanged rings and acknowledged the meaning and symbolism the rings held for them in this time and in the times ahead on their journey of life and love. There was a prayer, the pronouncement; the kiss, the applause and cheers, and finally the recessional back down the satin runner from whence they had come.

There were hugs and tears, there were toasts and cheers, there was punch and cake, and there was music and dancing. It was for all intents and purposes a typical and ordinary celebration of the love between two people as they began their married lives together. Though somewhere down deep I knew it was not ordinary at all, though I longed for it to be. As I sat and took it all in, I remembered thinking before I came I was not sure how I would feel, being an onlooker rather than a participant…and I realized what a selfish thought that had been. Because this moment was not about me or how I felt, this moment was about love.

I attended a wedding tonight. I attended a marriage tonight and I was moved and held once again in the very Presence of Love. These two brides were/are a testament to the power of love. These two beautiful women so obviously deeply and profoundly in love were/are what was witnessed to in the words of Paul shared so eloquently by their minister and at that moment I came to know in a powerful way that indeed, love will prevail. For love, true love, will indeed “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. Love, true love will not be denied, though there may be attempts to limit, detain, condemn, and belittle, love will not be silenced, love will not be imprisoned, and love will be triumphant in the end. It always has been, it always will.