If you watch internal church debates, you know that nothing gets people riled up more than just about anything to do with sex: premarital sex, homosexuality, you name it. People feel quite passionately about these issues, enough to part ways with one another. So I laughed out loud when I read a line from a piece published in New York Times about a “quieter battle” being waged within churches over gay marriage and gay ordination.
The piece from the Bay Citizen juxtaposes the Proposition 8 question in California with mainline Protestant churches struggling over internal church leadership debates.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month upheld a decision declaring Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. The ruling represented a milestone in the secular struggle over gay rights. In the shadow of that struggle, however, a quieter battle is being waged within churches over whether gay people can be married and ordained.
How can you quantify whether the mainline church’s struggle over gay ordination is quieter than the “secular struggle over gay rights”? Haven’t denominations split and churches waged court battles over these questions?
Long before the issue of same-sex marriage grabbed the spotlight, liberal Protestant pastors in Northern California were fighting against church rules prohibiting ordination and marriage of homosexuals. That internal church struggle is broadening nationwide.
The above paragraph feels rather broad. Is there a way to point to when these pastors began fighting on gay ordination and gay marriage?
And in her church’s liberal California-Nevada conference, 114 pastors from Northern California have signed a petition declaring they are willing to perform holy union ceremonies for same-sex couples, and thus risk being defrocked for violating church rules. More than 1,100 United Methodist pastors nationwide have signed the pledge. In response, 2,700 conservative pastors have signed a letter criticizing those pastors’ stance.
When the “conservative” pastors (conservative is a rather unhelpful word, by the way) outnumber the other group two to one, you would think they would get at least equal representation in the article, perhaps? How many people are quoted on the pro-gay ordination side? Six. How many against? Two. Here’s one of the quotes from the two who are against:
“There’s no way I can uphold my ordination vows and be in ministry with those people,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, a former pastor at Providence Presbyterian Church in Hilton Head, S.C., who resigned in protest over the denomination’s acceptance of gays and lesbians. She went on to lead the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a group that advocates against acceptance of gays and lesbians within the church.
Is the pastor against the acceptance of gays and lesbians as members, gay ordination, gay marriage, or something else? Generally, you get the sense that the reporter isn’t exactly eager to portray why opponents of gay ordination believe what they do, especially compared to the final quote.
“Those of us who are progressive people of faith often find ourselves caught in the middle,” said Mr. Stringfellow, whose job at the Pacific School of Religion includes developing a gay-inclusion curriculum aimed at historically black churches. “People in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community look at you with suspicion, or call you naïve because of your faith. And then there are people in the religious community who say you are in violation of the faith because of your sexuality.
“In the New Testament, the gentiles were seen as those who were outside God’s promise,” he said. “But the Apostle Paul was preaching to the gentiles. So the very concepts, issues and conflicts they had then in including people who had been received as outsiders, we’re still dealing with today.”
It’s clear that the reporter had the space to quote people at length. Again, the question for me is why people fall on the specific side that they do, and the quotes don’t do a great job of getting us that basic info. This has nothing to do with how you or I feel about the issue but about whether the story was executed fairly.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.