For many, it’s been a bit of a frustrating General Assembly these past few days. It seems as though the Assembly has had multiple opportunities to take the step forward in prophetic action, and has decided to settle for the status quo, many decisions apparently based in fear of what others might think of us. Always a good way to make important justice decisions.
This afternoon, the definition of Christian marriage was debated, while many hoped we might change the definition from marriage being between a man and a woman, to “two persons.” Of course, this is a hotly-debated issue in the church right now, and not just in our denomination. However, watching the live-stream of the debate was incredibly frustrating at parts, especially when people equated homosexuality and bestiality. At first, it was a YAAD (Young Adult Advisory Delegate). To say that I found it highly inappropriate is probably an understatement:
Some said that I should go easier on the person because they were a Young Adult (I didn’t actually know it was a YAAD when I first tweeted that response). Then there was a comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia. Again – completely inappropriate.
But then it continued. And later in the debate, a Teaching Elder (Presbyterian speak for “pastor”) from the Inland Northwest Presbytery, compared people who had sex with their children, with animals, and with those of the same gender. She also stated that these were all deserving of death. And no one – NO ONE – cut her off or stopped her from speaking. However, the responses on Twitter by those there and by those watching the live-stream give you an idea of some of the responses that must have been in the room:
I can’t believe there are still folks who will make the comparison of homosexuality and pedophilia and bestiality. As I mentioned on Twitter, I know there are folks who have different theological positions on this issue, based on their reading of Scripture. Some of my good friends, and family members, have different views than I do. And if you want to have a civil conversation about different biblical interpretations, fine. We can do that. I won’t be changing my opinion, and we’ll probably agree to disagree, but we can have that conversation.
But when you use rhetoric that compares homosexuality and the loving relationships that many of my friends have, with people having sex with animals…then no, we are not going to have a conversation. I don’t have respect for you or for your opinion. Does that make me a bad minister? Does that mean that I need to work on my pastoral care? Some may think so. But if that’s the starting point for you on this issue, we aren’t going to be talking.
The Assembly eventually took the vote, and by a margin of 30 votes (338-308), they decided to defeat the motion to change the definition of marriage. However, when the advisory delegates voted, the YAADs voted 75% in favor of changing the definition of marriage to two persons, and the TSADs (Theological Student Advisory Delegates) voted 82% in favor of the motion.
Immediately after the vote, someone tweeted this:
You want to know why young people are leaving the church? Because they are tired of us. They are tired of us continuing to do things the ways they’ve always been done. They’re tired of us being too afraid to step out in justice. They’re tired of us not following in the footsteps of our radical prophet/savior Jesus the Christ. They’re tired of a polity and theology that denies marriage equality to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that are members of our churches.
So, like the tweet said, when your church’s Session asks “Where are all the young people?” or “How do we get the young people to come back to our churches?” – perhaps we should encourage the greater church to LISTEN to our young people.
If we’re lucky, and if the YAADs have more stamina and faith and hope in the denomination than I do, and if they decide to stay a part of the PC(USA), then you see the direction the church is going. We will have marriage equality. We will allow our pastors to officiate same-sex marriage ceremonies without the fear of being taken to church court. We will be a different church. But not now.
Not now. Because we are afraid.