Sunday, 19 February 2012

On Monday, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed into state law the bill providing for legal recognition of same - sex marriages. Bishop Grant Hagiya of the United Methodist Church, was quick to express his support.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. 
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

John 13:34-35
I greet you in the very name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Difficult letters, like difficult conversations are never easy. However, God never promised us easy, and there are times when we must take up the cross and walk in faith. I write today not representing the United Methodist Church, for only General Conference can do that. So, even though I write this letter as your Bishop, I hope it will also be received as your friend in Christ.
With the signing by Governor Gregoire of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington as of June 7th, the state joins six others in recognizing this union. Personally, I celebrate the signing into law of the legalization of same-sex marriage for our state. It is an historic moment for the people of this geographic region, and it marks a secular turning point in the liberation of those who have too long been oppressed in our current times. I celebrate with those who will be free to enjoy equal health and security benefits through the state institution of marriage. 
I also personally grieve over our United Methodist Church polity that will not recognize same-sex marriage. I believe that it is wrong, and we should work for a more inclusive and humane response. The reason for this stance is that I believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God's divine love for the entire creation, and no one should be shut out from God's embracing Grace. God's Grace is so pure and encompassing that anything that attempts to limit or control this love must be transformed.
-read the full letter at  Reconciling Minisgtries Network
(emphasis added)
The bill has been signed, but is unlikely to take effect too soon. Opponents will attempt to have it overturned at the ballot box, probably supported by several Catholic and other faith - based groups. It is good to have this public demonstration that there is religious support for equality too - just as we already know that most Catholics support it.
It is also an important illustration of the deep support for inclusion within the United Methodist Church, the largest Mainline Protestant denomination of the USA. In recent years, proposals to admit to ordination openly gay or lesbian, partnered candidates for ministry, and for approval for same - sex  weddings in church, have been a staple of every general assembly of the UMC - as they will be again this summer - but have been consistently defeated, largely on the back of strenuous opposition by delegates from outside the US. So, same - weddings in a Methodist church are in conflict with the denominations rule - book, the "Book of Discipline". But many Methodist pastors see any refusal to conduct such weddings, as in conflict with their obligation to minister to their entire congregation, setting up a direct conflict. Over a thousand US ministers have publicly declared that even without approval from General Assembly, they will simply ignore the Book of Discipline on this matter, and marry same -  sex couples, regardless.
More than a thousand United Methodist clergy across the United States have signed statements committing themselves to fulfill their vow to ministry by marrying or blessing couples regardless of their gender. More than a third of the population of the United States lives where marriage or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples are legal. When parishioners come to their pastors to request that they officiate at their weddings, ministers face a conflict between their vow to minister to their whole congregation and their vow to uphold the Book of Discipline which asks them to deny ministry to some of their members.
Gay marriage, in church, will be debated again this summer at the UMC General Assembly, and also by the Presbyterian Church of the USA, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which have previously opened up to  LGBT pastors, but not same - sex weddings. There can be no longer any doubt: church weddings for all, without discrimination, are coming. It's just a matter of time - and denomination.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Bishop Hagiya is not the only pastor standing up for equality: just the most prominent. Others are doing so too - or at least, trying to avoid taking a stand. The NOM and the like can not claim to be speaking for the religious point of view:

Church leaders vary on approach to gay marriage issue |

When it comes to supporting gay marriage in Washington, there may be one question even more divisive for Christians than the one they're likely to see on the November ballot.

What would Jesus do?

"There's churches on both sides of that in Yakima," the Rev. David Helseth of Englewood Christian Church said. "I expect there will be some congregations and leaders that are very vocal."

Helseth is one of numerous church leaders locally who won't be addressing the issue from the pulpit anytime soon. He said he knows church members who support and oppose gay marriage, and he would rather promote civil dialogue than something that could seriously divide the congregation.

"We are not going to exclude anybody," Helseth said. "Everyone has a place at Christ's table."

The Rev. Mike Scheid of Yakima's Central Lutheran Church said gay marriage hasn't been seriously addressed within his congregation yet, and that's likely because the issue is still ongoing. Scheid said he thinks the topic will become a bigger issue later in the year when a likely referendum settles the question of legalization.

via  Yakima Herald-Republic.

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