I debated whether to write about an issue that our church has been struggling with the past few months, but here goes! Ever since the US Supreme Court voted and enacted a law allowing same gender marriage, we have had a division in our congregation about whether to allow the marriages to take place in our church, officiated by our pastor. (The National Lutheran church & synod have left it to individual churches to decide.)
I think many churches, many denominations, are struggling with it. And, if they aren't yet, they will. Some churches may not have formally brought it up at meetings as we did, but at some point they will have to take a stance.
I won't lie. It was a rough time for us. We are a family and as with all families, there are different opinions around the table - based on perhaps age, and gender, and personal experience, and faith backgrounds. Some in our congregation are more literal when it comes to the Bible as the Word of God. Some believe the Bible is God's guidebook, and the historical writings of prophets and followers of Jesus. Divinely given.
I have attended weekly Bible Study for years now and I have loved the exploration of the "Good book." I have learned that the best way to get into "God's head" is to sit with others, read the Word, and then talk about it. The Bible is a fluid piece of work, written by many, throughout the early Christian times, sometimes poetic, sometimes story telling, always teaching. It gives us law and love.
I have sat in Bible Study groups with people who think differently than me, but we all gather to learn more. I don't think I have ever walked out of a session disappointed. Like any book club (and I have been a member of several over many years) it is through the interpretations and the nuances discovered that help to enlighten us.
Anyway, back to the same-gender marriage issue: After months of talking, and some hurtful emails, and even a special ad-hoc committee that formed to help us work through it, we as a congregation voted yesterday on what to do. The vote was two-fold. The first part was a vote whether to allow a same-gender marriage to take place in our church facility by our pastor.... and it was narrowly voted down. Only 4 votes made the difference. That is how evenly split we are on the issue. The second vote was to allow our church pastor to officiate at a same-gender marriage outside of the church building (like on the beach, or at a restaurant) and that passed. I'm not sure what to think of the split vote - except that I am happy it went that way. I think people on both sides of the issue can feel good. It's not about winning or losing. It's about accepting that others believe differently - and that's okay.
So, again, I debated whether to write about this... should we keep it hush hush? What will outsiders think? Will people stay away? And, then I decided that YES I need to write about it! Because, the beauty is that I go to a church that allows differences, and allows challenges, and seeks to learn... and that we are ALL believers in Jesus, here to serve Him. We are people of great faith and love. We made it through a serious division - and we still care deeply about each other and about our church together.
I am excited about this congregation - a group of people, working together. Different in many ways. But, able to accept that we are and to focus on God's grace and love for us. Even as siblings that occasionally fight around the dinner table, He is a Father that loves us anyway.
So, here's a commercial for my church: Come to St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Pawleys Island if you want to be accepted as you are. We are each different, unique, and accepted. Searching. Not the same. Not always agreeing. But always working to love each other as God has loved us.