Referring to the article, “Goshen Church of the Brethren votes to recognize, perform gay marriages,” dated May 23 on elkharttruth.com, I had some thoughts to express.
First, I applaud the decision by this congregation to pull together in taking a strong stand for equal marriage. As a pastor who went through a long, similar process with her own congregation I know how hard it can be, and how rewarding.
For a pastor, when the needs to go against the church rules to which we hold sacred and dear is strong enough to risk everything, it must be a strong and clear call. In this world, being called to the ministry is a lonely vocation even when you are in line with your colleagues and administration. Risking a clash is heavy discernment. When a congregation takes the time to study an issue and choose, together, to empower their pastors to disobey rules, this is powerful witness.
A congregation and its pastor(s) have a sacred bond. As a pastor, whatever I do out in the community will have an impact on my congregants and this is part of why the mantle of service is heavy. Different churches have different specific rules regarding what the pastor may or may not do in representation of their congregation. The actual connection between pastor and congregation is both human and divine. You, the people, want us, the clergy, to speak our prophetic truths to a community not always ready to hear it. The connection is divine because the prophetic voice comes from a deep place of discernment regarding God’s love for all of God’s children.
My last thought for this Goshen church is to enjoy the ministry you will now get to do. In the years I have served and performed same-sex marriages, both before they were legal and after, one thing stands out for me with the couples I wed. Most have already been married in their hearts for years. Maybe they had a small ceremony. Most never thought their union would be legal, or upheld by a church, and so the ceremonies are not just about love, but equality. Weddings should always be about relationship, and not political platforms, but when the relationship is sanctioned by the church and the state professing your union to be sacred and legal, it is that much sweeter.
For what it’s worth, the congregation and pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart extends hearty congratulations to Goshen City Church on the decision to, in our words, Stand on the Side of Love.