Same Sex Marriage: one pastor’s change of heart

(This is an article written by my pastor, David Parks. It was printed in the Mukilteo Beacon on July 11)

They came to my office one afternoon. Two women in their early 30s wanted to talk to me about presiding at their wedding. They were nervous. I was nervous. It was a kind of fork in the road for me. I realized that I would have to make a decision. There was no way to sit on the fence or go on treating the subject of gay marriage as a hypothetical topic of casual conversation. Here were two people: deeply faithful, obviously committed and gracefully determined. They wanted to be married and they wanted a Christian pastor to help them. I asked them about their process of discernment. How did they come to decide that they wanted this? They both told me about growing up in Christian homes, about their practice of worship and devotion and about their painful experiences with family and church. There were tears. I understood their anxiety. After all the rejection and prejudice they had known in their lives, coming to see one more pastor was an act of courage and significant risk. Would I send them away too? I thought about the Bible. I had read and studied the same tiny handful of passages that some of my colleagues recite as proof of God’s disdain for homosexuality. (I interpret those texts very differently than they do). I remembered the Bible studies at my own church where thoughtful and faithful members talked and prayed together but, in the end, decided to agree to disagree. I thought about members of my own extended family. Like most people, I have relatives all over the map on this subject. We’ve never come to blows, but there have been animated conversations over the years. We’ve raised our voices, folded our arms, and wrinkled our foreheads. How would this play at the family Fourth of July picnic? I thought about my own congregation. What would they say? I am not naïve; I know that there are those who were already disturbed that our denomination had made decisions to affirm the pastoral ministry of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. I, on the other hand, also knew that many of our people would call this a “no-brainer.” They say it’s time we leave behind the days of bigotry and exclusion. Come on, pastor, get with the program. In the end, they decided to organize an event in a restaurant not at the church. We called it a “Blessing of a Christian Union.” We shared Scripture, vows, exchanged rings, offered prayers and a decent sermon. Afterward we toasted the couple, took pictures, tossed the bouquet and tasted the cake. It had two little plastic female figures on top. I don’t think it was this event or these two women that changed my mind. I think I changed as I prayed, read the Bible, listened to the stories of friends and wrestled with my own fears and biases. In the first chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul prays for God to “…give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…” God is at work here. My heart has changed. Whenever, wherever and with whomever there is love, commitment, and the deeper sense of community that is created by families – it seems to me that we pastors ought to be the first ones to say, “Yes.”

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