We are witnessing a sea-change in attitudes and policies about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. Record numbers of Americans now support legalizing same-sex marriage, members of Congress (including prominent Republicans) have come out in support of it, and Pope Francis says that the Catholic Church could support civil unions. But same sex-marriage is still a contentious issue and Americans are divided on it. Few questions are more anxiety-provoking than this one for a religious leader: “Could you see yourself performing a gay wedding?”
We began this week with an introduction to Pastor Ken Wilson’s new book, A Letter to My Congregation. In it, he explains the thoughtful and arduous journey that led him to change his mind about the place of gays and lesbians at his evangelical church. We examined the great generational divide in opinions about same-sex marriage, Americans who believe that AIDS is “divine punishment” for immoral sexual behavior, and how many Americans see same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right.
Today, we end the week with Ken’s answer to the question about performing a gay wedding at his church. If any question is the litmus test for a member of clergy, this one is it.
“I could see myself doing that,” Ken writes. “But ‘Could you see yourself performing a gay wedding?’ calls for an imagined response to a future scenario in the abstract. The fact is, I’ve not been asked to perform such a ceremony yet. What if we sharpened the question…to the more categorical ‘Would you perform a gay wedding?’ ”
Ken goes on to say that he doesn’t believe in “giving a categorical answer to a question like this in the abstract.” This might seem like a cop-out. But, in fact, it’s another example of the rigorous spiritual and thoughtful process Ken has taken. He would use the same policy that he applies to remarriage. He would have to discern, with the couple, whether this particular union should be sanctified or not.
Other religious leaders have been asked the question of “Would you perform a gay wedding?” Brian McLaren is one. Brian is a public theologian, activist, church founder, and writer (he wrote an insightful and gracious preface to my book, United America, which you can read right now on the book’s resource page). In 2012, Brian helped to officiate at his son’s same-sex wedding, leading a “commitment ceremony.” This led to considerable controversy and media coverage. (You can read more about Brian and his work at his popular web site.)
If you a member of a church, temple, or mosque—could you see your religious leader performing a gay wedding?
Would you support or oppose it?