I never understood why the “church” hated “The Gays.” I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, Freewill Baptist Church, along with other charismatic denominations. Each one catered to the belief that all were sinners, but the church of God’s people were saved from the weeping an gnashing of teeth. It was not uncommon for the church’s people to pedestalize themselves by openly condemning unwed mothers, fags, blacks, inter-racial or unevenly aged couples, the uncircumcised, and parents whom didn’t physically discipline their children. I always thought in my heart that the church was equal: equal for women, equal for children, race, and even sexually different.
At the age of nine, I became the church pianist. At ten, the Assistant Music Director for a praise team of ten vocalists, eight musicians, and a sign language interpreter. As the youngest on stage every Sunday, I received a lot of attention and a sort of coaching. The older folks felt it their place to tell me when and how I was to be interested in girls. Thankfully, they wanted me to sexually interested but “wait until marriage,” as it was God’s way not to enjoy sex, but use it to make babies. Let it be stated that I had no problem keeping female intimacy to a minimum.
Churches later, I was 16, a freshman in college, and getting my mind “liberalized” for the first time. Some time later, I was starting to come to accept myself, with the supportive coaching of my cousin, I was asked (begged) by a member of Bonne Terre First Christian Church to be their pianist. These folks have never heard me play, nor have they met me in person. They offered $35 a Sunday for one service, an hour in length. Not enough to get rich on, but $35 more than I was making at the Baptist church. I sent a letter to the Baptist church saying I was taking some time off to look at this position. I arrived to this charming church, which literally had a glow of happiness and peace, something I’d not experienced until that point. I observed a service, which had a female minister, then had music talk after service.
After playing once, they offered me $50 to stay. I said I would for three months, until they found someone else. One of the kindest gestures, they threw me a going away party on my last Sunday, then one of my piano students took over as their pianist. Returning to the dark, conservative, and critical Baptist church killed my enjoyment. A few months later, a new couple asked to join the church. In the front of sanctuary, they were told no, since the wife used to be a man; supposedly the couple was now living in permanent homosexual sin, and “A little bit of yeast ruins the whole loaf of bread,” so God’s church can’t have that. I was literally in shock.
The next Sunday, I was sitting on the stage during the sermon, when the preacher paraphrased Focus on the Family in saying “Sometimes, you just need to beat your kids, just to keep ‘em in line and make ‘em respect ya.” I faked a phone call, walked out of the church, with another couple visiting for the first time, sent a detailed letter, and have never returned. That next Sunday, I surprise visited that same Disciples congregation, where everyone was happy to see no questions asked. They didn’t care if I liked boys, girls, or both; they didn’t care if I was 16 or 60; they didn’t care about my genitals or their color; they cared that I was there and welcome.
Fast-forward, I sit as a church leader at the Disciples of Bonne Terre, as their Music Director, along with other hats, and I would never consider anything else. My church doesn’t have an Open and Affirming policy, but we’re starting discussions, and we maintain that the Disciples are open to different and opposing opinions, while being unified in Christ.
Now talking about the church in marriage, I have to say that my Disciples are equal, which means we need to respect the conservatives as the liberals, listen to the old as the young, and consider the literalists as the figurative. I would like to one day get married in my own church, but why rush something through? I could easily slip an O&A policy into a stack of board proposals, but I would be cheating the church of their journey.
The church, the body of believers, has a right to struggle and fight with marriage equality; it makes many uncomfortable, while it seems like a human right to others. It means purposefully and publicly accepting a figurative interpretation of the Bible, for which some are not ready. It calls for the figuratively-interpreting young Christian to recognize the impact of literal scripture. Marriage equality within the church is not just de-sexing marriage, it’s teaching, learning, and unifying an entire congregation. This process is not to be standardized, and I do not expect all churches to readily open their doors to LGBT couples everywhere; I do, however, expect both sides of the church to open their minds, hearts, and Bibles to tackle this issue slowly.
Gay people have waited a long time for marriage equality, and it’s coming, but our churches need time to grow together. What stops the Disciples from pausing for more consideration before preforming gay weddings? What holds up the Baptists from opening their doors tomorrow? It all boils down to growing, listening, and respecting. Congregations need to bring themselves to a middle ground, as not to become exclusive, but inclusive. Of course denominations like the Disciples are closer to inclusive practices than many Baptist churches, but that does not stop anyone from starting to converse.
My juxtaposed religious childhood versus adulthood rounded my appreciation for the church that I attend. As many may know, America is no longer a “Melting Pot,” but a “Salad Bowl,” where everyone’s individuality forms a unified people; the same idea works for the church, where we all are different but Christians. The Christian Church (DOC) is at a great place in its history, with the passing of GA-1327, to independently talk, listen, understand, educate, be educated, and transform into a blossoming church, using equal marriage as a catalyst.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?