The church of which I am a part holds a conference each year where pastoral and lay (non-pastoral) leadership gather together to celebrate ministry and deal with various administrative issues as well as ordain new clergy. This isn’t just one church, but representation for roughly 400 churches in Southern California plus several Pacific Island locations. All of us are part of a larger world-wide Protestant denomination.
I’ve been a lay member at this conference for several years running, and since I hope to be ordained I hope to attend this conference for years to come.
A major discussion took place related to the recent State Supreme Court decision in California that struck down the ban on same-gender marriage, allowing that all persons regardless of sexual identity have the right to be married (see the court’s decision here). Because the US constitution recognizes contracts between states and because the state of California has no residency requirement for wedding licenses, this became a big deal very quickly.
This can be a dramatically divisive issue, and persons of great faith and intelligence have long argued both sides of this issue. I have long known where I see myself in relation to same-gender marriage, and even then there were two stories that were especially moving for me.
At one point, a clergy-woman who is confined to a wheelchair joined in the dialogue. She shared that when she was younger she met a young man who was Catholic and was also confined to a wheelchair. They began a relationship that they eventually came to experience as one of great value for them. They decided that they wanted to get married! However, when they approached her fiance’s Priest, he explained that they would be unable to get married. He told them that marriage was for procreation only and that since they were both confined to wheelchairs and physically incapable of procreation (she affirmed this in her telling of the story; the Priest wasn’t making an assumption with this part), marriage was not an appropriate expression of their relationship. They are a man and a woman, confined to wheelchairs through no fault of their own. Needless to say, they were devastated. Then they got married through a Protestant church!
A couple of days later, another clergy-woman told a story about her daughter. It seems that her daughter is a lesbian and is experiencing a call to ministry and wishes to pursue her call. Her mother told her that the Protestant denomination of which they are a part does not ordain gay or lesbian persons, nor do they offer or even allow same-gender marriage. She suggested that her daughter consider ordination in another denomination. Then she asked this question: Even if we acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin (which she categorically denies) why is this one sin singled out as making one ineligible for ordination or marriage?
Finally, I would like to offer a faith perspective on homosexuality. Many have heard or even read various biblical scriptures that appear clear on this issue. Justin R. Cannon has put together an interpretation that seems very well thought out. It can be read here.