I am a Christian, a person deeply formed by the Church and its gospel. Even more, I am a Baptist minister. For the past 35 years I have given my life to understanding, living and proclaiming the message of Jesus. It is because of this, not in spite of it, that I’ll be voting “yes” in the upcoming plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
There is nothing that goes to the heart of human identity as much as our sexuality. It is that God-given reminder, persistent and powerful, that we are made for relationship — intimate, covenant relationship. When our need for intimate communion with another human being is violated through the horrors of sexual abuse, cheapened through sexual infidelity, or invalidated through sacraments of love that exclude, it is not only our rights that are threatened, but our identity as those created in God’s image.
Also in the South, United Church clergy have joined with Methodist and other religious leaders in a coalition to support gay marriage – because they are Christians, not in spite of it.
Oklahoma faith leaders form coalition supporting marriage equality
More than 50 Oklahoma faith leaders have formed a coalition in support of marriage rights for all couples, whether gay or straight.The Oklahoma Faith Leaders for Marriage group includes leaders of congregations of Mennonites, United Methodists, Unitarians, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ and at least one Baptist minister and two rabbis.
Standing in the sanctuary of Church of the Open Arms, Kenny Wright and Bo Bass are an Oklahoma City gay couple who say they will get married in Oklahoma if the state’s same-sex marriage ban is overturned. Photo by Jim Beckel, The OklahomanThe United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations have the most coalition representation, with at least eight United Methodist clergy and at least eight United Church of Christ ministers among the faith network’s members.“Expanding marriage equality will finally remove a long-standing obstacle to our pastoral care — and allow us to minister equally to all families in our community,” the coalition said in a statement released after its April launch.
Will and Erwynn met at church and fell in love. But they had a big problem—“don’t ask, don’t tell.” The unlikely story of the first gay military union.
It’s almost Christmas, and I’m eating lunch with Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and his fiance Will Behrens at a Cracker Barrel in New Jersey. Erwynn, 34, is an active-duty serviceman in the Air Force. Will, 35, is a branch manager for a financial firm. There are six months to go until Will and Erwynn get married at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a joint military base in Wrightstown, N.J. It will be the first publicly announced gay civil union or wedding ever to take place on an American military installation. But today is about family, not planning for the big day. With us are Will’s children from a previous marriage, his 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. When the country fried steak and chicken and dumplings arrive, everyone joins hands in prayer. Will thanks God for our food and prays that I’ll make it home safely. We say amen and eat.
Little about the couple’s biographies would suggest that they would become gay rights trailblazers or find themselves on the progressive side of a culture war. Will was born outside of Chicago in 1976. His mother was a teacher. His father, a marine-turned-fundamentalist-minister, spent most of the year on the road through his work with Fairhaven Baptist church in Chesterton, Ind. Will’s father was its youth pastor and vice president of the church’s small Christian college.
Fairhaven Baptist was founded by Dr. Roger Voegtlin, a firm believer in corporal punishment. Will recalls Dr. Voegtlin giving spanking demonstrations and instructions during church. Will’s parents followed Dr. Voegtlin’s example, imposing strict discipline on Will and his three siblings. Will ran away from home twice, in fifth and sixth grade, because he was so fearful of punishment from his father.
Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III of the Friendship-West Baptist Church blasted fellow pastors and members of his congregation for their outrage at President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality while the congregation stood up and shouted their disapproval at him.
“You should have seen preachers just scurrying and hurrying to call a conference call to call out the President for what he had declared as a personal opinion. He said it was a personal opinion. But whatever you like to ostracize other people it’s because there’s a fear that you have yourself, and the fear that you have finds itself rooted in an ignorance of other people. Or in a projection of your issues. Either there’s ignorance or there is a projection of your issues…It really blows my mind how outraged you are. You are so outraged over what the President said. First of all, take a chill pill. Take a deep breath, everything’s gonna be all right.”
An online petition calls on Baptist leaders “to denounce all hate speech and the use of the pulpit as a weapon of terror against the LGBT community.”
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists called June 1 for Baptist leaders across all traditions to denounce rhetoric from Baptist pulpits promoting violence and even genocide against gays.
AWAB posted an online petition urging “penitence and prayer” for harmful remarks and calling on Baptist leaders “to denounce all hate speech and the use of the pulpit as a weapon of terror against the LGBT community.”
“As followers of Jesus we are called to stand with the least, the last, and the lost (Matthew 25:44) and to see the image of God in each human being (Genesis 1:27),” the statement reads in part. “Jesus calls us to this no matter how we feel or think about someone’s ‘lifestyle’ or their interpretation of scripture. We are all children of God and deserve to be treated as such.”
The association said it “does not believe there is room for hate speech against our neighbors, no matter how strongly we disagree on the interpretation of these same texts.”
The NAACP voted overwhelmingly May 19 to oppose “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”
A Baptist minister and board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said May 26 it would have been hypocritical for the 103-year-old civil-rights organization not to pass its recent resolution supporting marriage equality.
Amos C. Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of the city’s local NAACP branch, is a member of the organization’s national board of directors, which voted May 19 to oppose “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”