This week in Detroit representatives from Presbyterian congregations from across the country are debating and deciding on a number of issues. Among them is whether or not to permit Presbyterian pastors to officiate at weddings of gay and lesbian couples. Needless to say, there continues to be deep divides and strong opinions and emotions on both sides of the debate. Without claiming to be any kind of a prophet, if any decision is made other than to permit pastors, at their discretion, to officiate at the weddings of gay and lesbian couples, I think two things will happen.
- A whole cohort of people who stand on the edges of organized religion and wonder if who we are and what we do is relevant any more or makes a difference anymore, will decide that we aren’t (relevant) and we don’t (make a difference) and the gap between them and us will increase.
- Pastors, like me, will defy the rules and officiate at marriages anyway because the pastoral always trumps the polity (church rules).
I realize other things will happen, as well.
Some congregations who would disagree with such a decision will leave the denomination and the result will be less numbers and less money and more disputes over who owns the property. And, relations with international partners who are more traditional and more conservative will likely be strained.
But for those of us who no longer view homosexuality as a sin or homsexuality as something to be undone and who look to Jesus as an example to follow we see the same tension then as we are experiencing now. Pushing back against those who said it is wrong and you can’t, Jesus ate with those whom the religious authorities deemed to be unclean, touched those who were not be be touched and healed those who needed to be healed even if it was on the wrong day of the week all because it was the right thing to do even if it was against the rules.
Both then and now, the pastoral trumps the polity.