I have officiated at 11 weddings thus far. I have good memories from each of them and I look forward to being a part of many wedding ceremonies in the future. Of course each time I officiate at a wedding my heart aches. That’s because I look out and see people who are single and who long to have a partner, people who are single and who wish others would stop assuming there is something wrong with them, people who have had their hearts broken and stomped on or worse, people who wonder if they will ever have the chance to be married, people who are divorced (sometimes 2, 3, 4 times) and people who are denied the opportunity to stand with their beloved, before a community and before God, because of their sexual orientation.
So in between the smiles, the beauty, the blessings, the sacredness of the services I have attended and led, my heart often aches. I know I’m not alone.
My heart aches because so many of us have questions, uncertainty and pain when it comes to past and current relationships. Many of us have regrets, shame and trauma having to do with what has been done to our bodies, or what we have chosen to do with our bodies, or how or whom we have been denied.
No matter how we define our sexuality or our relationship status, we all wonder at times, “Are we alright?” We often wonder whether we are living out our sexuality in healthy ways, in ways that don’t degrade or exploit ourselves and others.
I once attended a sexuality and faith workshop in Lawrence, KS. In preparation for that workshop, participants were asked to reflect on the following questions:
- When did you realize that you were a sexual being?
- What did it mean to be a boy/girl/child in your family?
- How did your parents or caregivers tell you about your sexuality?
- How and when did you discover your sexual orientation?
- If you have had negative or violent experiences, how have you dealt with them?
- How do they currently affect your view of the world?
We were told by the leaders that if we didn’t feel comfortable answering these questions, that we probably wouldn’t be ready for this workshop.
I have since wondered what it would be like if we, who proclaim to be Jesus followers, would spend more time with these questions. What if only those who have spent time with these questions were allowed to speak? And what if I made these questions part of future pre-marital counseling sessions? And finally, what if, before reading and reacting to the following Rainbow resolution, you spent time with these questions?
This resolution along with this TEXAS presentation was offered to the delegate body of Western District Conference.
I stand by what I told the delegates: I’m grateful to be a member of a congregation that is working patiently and persistently toward greater inclusion and justice. My aching heart has found a community to work with as we seek healing and wholeness.
I’m not suggesting that this resolution is all right, or that we are always right. I do hope and trust that it is a step in the right direction. God, who called creation more than alright, help us all.
Drawing by Jesse Graber
Thank you Ruth for those words. I fit into several of those categories and have had a lot of fights with God! He always won and at this stage of my life I am happy and content! I only hope those who are struggling can find peace!
This resolution is a modest step. We must recognize that continued “agreeing and disagreeing in love” while maintaining a status quo that offers no options to our LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ (other than to live lives that are loveless, promiscuous or untruthful) may well be experienced as a violence against them. We can continue the conversation under the conditions set forth by the Rainbow Resolution and no one is required to adopt a religious belief that he or she finds compromising. People who feel their churches would be violated by a same-sex consecration may keep their sanctuaries “pure” and free from such ceremonies, and continue to make their case regarding scriptural interpretation.
The only thing the Rainbow Resolution requires is toleration of other religious interpretations of scripture, and there is precedent for this. We tolerate differences on closed vs. open communion and the use of head coverings. We have found room to tolerate churches that permit remarriage after divorce. We do not rebuke and drive out “evildoers” for their “greed” or the other lower-case-s sins on Paul’s many lists. We remain in communion with one another in defiance of our differences and that is what constitutes holy fellowship. We’ve been doing it since the founding of the church, when people were uncomfortably divided over the role of circumcision and Paul demanded that the Judaic and Gentile believers remain in communion with one another despite their differences. Sin with an upper-case S is separation from God and people model it (embrace it?) when they presume to judge (in place of God) and then separate themselves from their neighbors and fellow believers over the lower-case-s sins . . . when they turn their backs and leave because other people don’t see things their way. That, to my thinking, is the greater Sin.
Though I would welcome back into communion anyone who has left and disagrees with me. Let’s talk. Let’s break bread and drink wine. But let’s at least pass the Rainbow Resolution.
Well said, Debra. I have decided, in light of the fact you are so skillful in expressing your well thought out positions– not to mention you are already studying in seminary–, you should be a minister, author, blogger–or all three.
Thanks, June. You know, I don’t have one of those stories where God has spoken to me directly, given me the “call.” Some people in seminary do. I consider your words to be “call.” A few other people have expressed support too, and I SO appreciate it. There are others who look at me and, either with their eyes or their mouth, say “You? Seminary?!” Your words balance that. I don’t know whether I should be trusted with a congregation — I’m pretty opinionated — but writing feels good to me. It’s safe. People can choose to read or not to read, and no particular community of believers gets hurt in the process.
The cover letter accompanying the Rainbow resolution was eloquently stated – thanks to all who crafted this wonderful statement – should be published in The Mennonite or MWR, or somewhere where the wider church body can read about our process, and think about the words of the resolution.
Hello Ruth. Thanks for your writing. Can I have permission to share this with my (welcoming) congregation, Hope Mennonite of Winnipeg? You and I met last year at St John’s in Minnesota – I am Wes Bergen’s sister, to refresh your memory.
Reblogged this on Of Air and Other Things and commented:
Important and beautiful