I want to rephrase the question. Instead of, “Why should the church care about marriage?” I want to ask, “How should churches come to care about marriage equality?” Mine is a question of strategies, not rationale. So my question becomes, “How do we move our communities from here to there?” And, “how do we lead that move faithfully and effectively?”
The notion of a strategy sometimes is equated with dishonesty or delay. Remember the context for MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail?” “Not this fast, not this way in Birmingham” was countered with MLK’s sublimely prophetic absolute: “justice delayed is justice denied.” But, as important, the strategy of the civil rights movement—to bring to public light how bad it was for black people in Birmingham and the rest of the south—is what raised the temperature enough in Washington and the rest of the country. Strategy matters. How matters.
How do churches change? We know about the critical importance of context. “All politics is local.” Theology is inevitably contextual. Congregational strategies are local and contextual, too.
Disciple churches exhibit different responses to the question of LGBT people in church, in ordained leadership, and in celebrating marriage. Here are the bumper sticker shorthand versions of congregations and Disciples I’ve encountered: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” “We’re accepting, but let’s not make a public statement.” “All means all.” The most faithful and effective strategy for change in each situation will be different. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, there is no one size fits all approach. What can be done in one place may not be possible in another. Taking a contextually-sensitive path to change is strategically smart.
For some churches the best strategy will center on relationship. For others it will be education, or discussion, or voting. For some it will be the inevitability of death and demographics. Others may never change.
I do not intend this to be a word of caution. It is instead a suggestion among those interested in making changes that smart strategies matter if we are after deep difference among Disciples. Many paths lead to the same destination.
So if you’re concerned about the how as well as the why: look carefully, think hard, pray well, take heart, keep your eyes on the prize, and take the next faithful step, whatever it may be.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?