| photo by Jens-Petter Salvesen - Of this picture he says: |
"Sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door."
We know that one issue that divides the Church today is the gay issue. The Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage is beginning to put pressure on the church to take a stand. Whole denominations have been split over this issue. Congregations everywhere are asking their Pastors: "Tell me what you believe about this issue."
First Baptist Church--yes, Baptist--in Greenville, South Carolina has taken a wise and courageous stand. Long before the Supreme Court gave their ruling--this Church was discussing at all levels how they should respond to gay folk and their church community. The church decided to listen to its members and then make some response. They never voted on homosexuality. The Pastor, Jim Dant stated that the church came up with a statement in which they said: All members of this church have full rights and privileges here. Note the word, all. The Pastor said they didn't vote because people had all kinds of opinions on this subject in their church. I would add that there are some issues you just don't vote on in the church. You should vote on: Is this congregation an open or closed shop?
What that church really did was to struggle with the definition of church. Is the church for all or just some. Churches--mostly Southern--faced this question years ago with integration. The question then was: Shall we let these people in our church? Deacons galore stood at the church-house door and turned away people of color. One of their arguments was: "Are they coming here to worship or just make a statement." I always thought that was a cop-out. We never wondered if white folk were there for the right reasons. The integrity of the church was at stake then and now.
Is the church for everyone or does Jesus' "whosoever will"come with qualifications? This reasoning that "this will upset some folk" is not a Biblical yardstick. Many turned way from Jesus because his words were hard and his way was not easy. Remember that time he plaintively turned too his disciples and asked, "Will you also go away?"
This move does not set well with many people. In The Greenville News' Letters to the Editor yesterday some woman wrote:
"I can't believe the stance that First Baptist Church of Greenville is taking on this same-sex marriage abomination. Evidently they have just thrown out the words of God on this subject. The idea that a layman could teach a boys' class is so wrong. They say 'What we believe about marriage and family is culturally driven, not biblically driven.'" She goes on to add: "Wonder what Bible they're using. Certainly not the one I use. This is so sad. This church needs our prayers."
The issue as I see it comes down to this. What kind of a church are we? There are no easy answers when the church comes to difficult crossroads. But the answer to this question of who we are is at the heart of every issue that comes down the pike.
I think of all the Pastors out there that are struggling with this issue. And I think of all the parents of closeted brothers and sisters and children--who wonder if the church would welcome their loved ones. Gays stay away from the church everywhere in great numbers. Why? They believe they would not be welcome. And if they came they believe they would only be judged.
Let us pray for congregations across the nation as they deal with this issue in the context of a very diverse and troubled world.
|photo by Roel Wijnants / flickr|
(The Greenville News published almost a whole front page on the First Baptist Greenville's stand on this issue.
Baptist GlobalNews gives us excerpts of that story from Greenville.)
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com