“Sin happens when we refuse to keep growing” – St. Gregory of Nyssa, 4th Century
When I preached a couple of Sundays ago, about us all being possessed by one “demon” or another, I hadn’t read St. Gregory’s words. I wish I had. In 8 words, he says what I spent a whole sermon trying to say. I could have said that, had Communion, and still beat my record of 11:40!
For those of you that weren’t there, one of my early worship services at Winfield ended in 40 minutes. Everybody else was happy! I was a little embarrassed. But, I digress . . .
We are possessed when we refuse to grow. Growth is necessary to life – if you can’t grow, you die. End of story.
I started this post last week, and today return to finish it on February 9th – a day which will live in infamy, or blessing, depending on your perspective. Today men and women arrive at courthouses around the state to obtain licenses to marry, not a whole lot different than any other day – except those new arrivals are “same-sex” couples. I’m happy for them.
I’ve had to grow in order to grasp this plain and simple fact: God is love. God is love for me. God is love for everyone. I’ve heard a lot of discussions about “court orders” and “stays” and “Supreme Court,” and, yes, good ol’ Roy Moore. I haven’t heard much mention of 1 John 4:7-21 – God is love; love everybody; perfect love casts out fear, etc.
I didn’t used to think that. I, like many others in Alabama and the world, thought there was something wrong with men loving men and women loving women. But, like I said, I’ve grown. I’ve grown because of living with, working with, worshipping with, and getting my hair cut by gay men and women who love Jesus – or are sincerely searching.
Not that growth makes me better, or smarter, or more loving than anyone who is in a different place. Growth just means “change,” not “better” or “worse.”
I’ve changed because I believe God has changed me. He has brought me into contact with people of faith who just happen to love someone of the same gender. Their faith, belief, and love of God is just as deep – and maybe sometimes deeper – than mine. Those brothers and sisters in the faith should not be denied the protection of law. If they want to marry, their marriage should be as legal as mine is to my wife of 25 years. That’s all the state can do – make it legal. Will their marriages be loving, compassionate, faithful? That’s between the spouses and God. I think the church can help – just like it can help “traditional” marriages.
But, right now, I can’t. My denomination won’t let me. If you’re gay, I can love you. I can preach to you. I can teach you about Jesus and the Bible, but I can’t perform your wedding. I’m sorry. The Bishop wrote an e-mail to everybody reminding us:
The polity of the United Methodist Church has not changed. The Book of Discipline is clear that our clergy persons may not celebrate same-sex unions, nor may such ceremonies be conducted in United Methodist churches.
While we recognize that this is a subject about which people are very passionate, both in favor of and opposing such celebrations, all UMC clergy persons are expected to abide by the Disciplinary mandate. As a denomination we have agreed that the only body with authority to approve changes in the language of the Discipline is the General Conference, which includes representatives from all around the world. The next opportunity for any change to be made to The Book of Discipline occurs in the spring of 2016, when General Conference meets in Portland, Oregon.
In the meantime, our denomination continues to affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. We commit ourselves to be in ministry with and for all persons, and we appeal to all churches, families and individuals not to reject or condemn our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers.
I’m a “yellow-dog Methodist” and I’ll do what my church Discipline tells me to do; because I have taken a vow to uphold that Discipline, even when my personal opinion differs. But I want all of you who are ecstatically happy today to know that I’m happy for you!
God loves everybody! Amen!