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  • Patti

Do you sign or not? Official Position Papers on Marriage

Doubling Down is what many churches have been doing lately. This is the powerful reaction of conservatives to what they see as a liberal migration into society. Churches feel the need to draw a line in the sand. But are they merely following a worldview that is driven by today’s political right? You will hear them bemoan the loss of “Judeo-Christian” values in the United States. But are churches truly holding tight to what Jesus really taught? Or are they picking their battles based on the political environment of the day?

A position paper on marriage as only between a man and a woman was the final straw for me in my church of 30+ years. No other position paper exists at this church. A statement of core beliefs is the standard document that believers adhere to in order to serve or be in leadership in the typical church. Yet now, in many traditional churches, a new statement appears to supersede belief statements and creeds such as “We believe Jesus is the incarnation…” and “We believe in salvation by grace.” A few years ago, when my son checked the Conservative Baptist Association’s website to see if there was any official policy on LGBTQ in leadership he was shocked at what he found. Sure, there was a statement of faith, but something new had been added at the top of the page. Appearing above all else was “An Official CBA Statement on Same Sex Marriage” with a link to their position. (Note, this is now found at the bottom of the page.)

How could this take precedence over the belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, especially when the law of the land allows for marriage between persons of the same sex?

Is this what we have come to? Defining our church membership with one belief?

Before leaving my church, I spent several years working to provide support for families who want to learn how to better love and support their LGBTQ children. It was my effort to help shepherd the entire flock and to allow honest dialogue around a conversation-stopping sentence such as, “I just found out my son is gay.” Realizing that my conservative church was not going to move quickly, I thought that I could begin with peer-peer support.

In my dreams...

When their response was to develop a position paper, I knew for sure that I could not agree and left on the same day. I had invested four years in clearly understanding my stance. I knew what I needed to do.

But what about others? Those who have not invested the time and study that I had?

What if you are in a church that develops such a position paper? (And more and more are doing just this.)

What do you do?

You may love and affirm your LGBTQ friend or family member. You may love their partner, too, and see the value in their committed relationship as well as the fact that their gender or sexuality is not something they chose, but rather something that was always inherent about them. You may live your life with all appearances that you agree with this belief. But are you ready to cross the line your church has drawn in the sand?

Are you ready to refuse to sign this policy while knowing that your refusal will result in alienation from your chosen church family?

No one thinks they have to agree with every decision their church makes. While there is unity in core beliefs such as the Apostles’ Creed, there is often a wide variety of opinions on other aspects of practice. Some will feel strongly about their traditional hymns while others want music of the current era. Types of prayer, when to collect the offering and whether children should attend adult sermons are all points of differing opinions. There can even be disagreement on the responsibilities of an elder board or the choice of a curriculum and yet people will agree to disagree. They might even justify this by declaring that there is no expectation that members agree with everything a church does.

No big deal.

Yet now there is a statement to officially agree or disagree with. A statement that affects your participation and is no longer a point that permits differing opinions.

Do you sign in agreement while secretly holding to your private beliefs? Kind of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This allows you to maintain your friendships and sense of belonging in your home church. No need to rock the boat. Who wants to cause an uproar? “Is it really that important anyway?” you think, since your friends know the real you.

Yet, how do you justify agreeing with a policy that excludes your friends, siblings and co-workers from your church body?

Are you no different from those who looked the other way during the civil rights movement, going along with laws that forced some people to the back of the bus or to other drinking fountains? Are you no different from those who excluded Jews and Blacks from athletic and social clubs? Are you any different from the celebrities called out for mocking or damning a particular ethnic, religious or cultural group?

Are you, too, caught up in the cultural politics of today? The identity politics that ties evangelicals to republican conservatism that has taken hold of many who mistake political strategy for doctrinal direction? What happened to your understanding of Jesus’ message of the dignity and worth of each and every person?

Ouch! You may say that is harsh.

But how is your LGBGQ brother or sister or child impacted when you agree to a position that excludes them, seeming to negate their worth as a child of God?

But, you argue, the position paper also states that there should be no defaming or bullying of those who are “same sex attracted”. Isn’t that generous? NOT. That is mere pandering to those of you who are walking the fine line and claiming to love your LGBTQ friends and family, while fearing the consequences of standing up for them.

You might as well be posting a sign that says “Straights Only. No LGBTQ”. Or “LGBGTQ, Enter from the Back” or even simply barring the door, preventing their entrance.

When will we progress if people are afraid to stand up for the human dignity of every person? Every human who is created in the image of God. That includes your queer co-worker, your trans friend and your bisexual cousin. Everyone.

Philip was probably “anti-Ethiopian-eunuch” until he met one on the road to Gaza. And then, seeing his faith and hearing his request, “What prevents me from being baptized?” Philip saw a fellow believer. This same eunuch that was deemed unclean to worship in the temple in Jerusalem was now fully accepted into the kingdom. Jesus changed everything.

I imagine that Philip’s world view was turned upside down after that encounter, just as yours was changed by knowing and walking alongside your LGBTQ friend.

But now, do you stand up for them? Aren’t they a part of the “whoever believes in Him” that Jesus came for? (John 3:16). They are the tax collectors and people in the margins that the religious leaders claimed didn’t have the proper worth for Jesus to dine with or talk with or heal.

“But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house. “ Luke 6:49

If even some of this rings true to you, please consider your mark of approval or disapproval carefully. God knows. Your decision is between you and God. It should not be driven by your fear of losing your community. And, you may sign and stay in order to be able to affect change from within.

Consider those that your church will not welcome into community. Sure, the ultimate community will be with Jesus and not on this earth. The community in the kingdom of heaven is made of those who love and follow Jesus and does not exclude people based on who they love.

Ponder your decision and seriously consider if it is an act of support or an act of betrayal.

It is your choice after all. A choice that your friend or family member did not have when they realized they were LGBTQ. In fact, you may have cried with them over their realization, supported them through their struggle. You may have stood by their side and shown them love.

But now, it affects you.

Make a choice. It is truly between you and God. He knows your heart. Yet your choice can affect more than only you.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

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