Category Archives: Homosexuality

How Churches Can Avoid the Nightmare of Lawsuits over Wedding Ceremonies

WEDDING

This is simple and perhaps even simplistic, I admit, but, I guarantee you it is at least one first step to avoid legal problems, that is, if you object to performing gay marriages.

(Disclaimer: I have voiced my opinion as to gay marriage plenty of times in different ways with the same main thrust, so, this is not an opinion on gay marriage but an advice to Churches that want to avoid the nightmare of lawsuits.)

Many Protestant churches reject the idea of marriages as a sacrament. Too bad that they perform and require that marriages be performed by their ministers as if it were a sacrament. However, many of these Churches use wedding ceremonies as a revenue generator for the Church and even rent their facilities for other ministers to perform marriages of people outside of the host Church membership. Well, that was fine and dandy up until now, but, unless Churches find a way not to “have it both ways” or, a quasi sacrament, whereas saying is not one, which they charge everyone to offer, and even offer it to people whose spiritual life they do not oversee, Churches will be open for all kinds of lawsuits because now we have a different, uncommon before, group of people who feel that, in spite of the fact that they never cared for that church facility in their neighborhood, and even when it is not in their neighborhood, they want to challenge that Church by wanting to have their gay marriage in that specific facility. In my not expert opinion, as it is plain to see, and as I consult friends of mine who are attorneys, it will be hard for that Church ministers to deny their facilities to perform a gay marriage on the basis of religion, since they only have an “expectancy” that the people whose weddings are performed in there are indeed religious people. My discussion here is not whether it is right to sue a Church for that or not, my discussion is that it will be hard for a Church to prove that they are not discriminating!

What then can be done?

Number one, from start, Churches should get out of the business of performing marriages. By that I mean, they should not charge for that which they believe to be a function of the Church. Otherwise they have to deny that such ceremonies are relevant and the function of the Church. They can’t have it both ways. They cannot charge; perhaps a nominal fee is fine for “maintenance” purposes, such as removal of flowers, or things of this nature, or cleaning the “social hall”, if the reception is also carried in its facilities, but charging a fee for the marriage itself, should be a “no, no”.

Then, not only should Churches not use weddings for a revenue generator by charging wedding fees, but also they should perform, or bless marriages of members of their congregations only, or the people whom the Ministers of that Church oversee spiritually. That means that they would not rent their facilities for marriages of people outside those who are under spiritual supervision of the ministers of that Church, whom they know, counsel, pray with, and to whom they offer communion regularly. I know that this will hurt churches financially, but it will hurt even more to have a lawyer in their payroll or to pay expensive legal fees to dispute lawsuits. All that is happening may be a Sovereign act of God in turning Churches more like the Body of Christ, and turn to their main purpose here on earth than to simply “server” the community as a venue for community indiscriminant celebrations.

In fact, Churches who want to avoid lawsuits, as long as it is legal to present issues (which is about to be legally debated in America) to your members, you should have a formal teaching plan where you teach your members about sin, sexuality, marriage, along with all your doctrinal foundations such as justification, the Trinity, etc. That alone will prevent anyone who disagrees with you from even the desire to be in your zip code, let alone get married in your Church!

Lastly, Churches should write all the above in their Constitution and By-Laws and ensure, assure and reassure that such is being followed to the letter!

How can this protect a Church?

Some may ask how these measures will help a Church avoid lawsuits; let me ask them that if you want to fly shirtless in an airplane there will always be a hard nose flight attendant, or steward, whatever they call it nowadays, to tell you that “it is not the company policy that people fly shirtless”. Churches need to know what their policy is. Whether they choose to perform gay marriage or not, they have to enact a policy that is understood by the community so as not to invite anyone even to consider attempting to violate such policy. That, added to the Constitutional provisions will aid a Church to be protected against most of the lawsuits and local ordinances that ultimately violate the Constitution right to assemble, which may be interpreted with “right to associate with likeminded folks”, freedom of speech, or religion and freedom to worship as one desires.

The advantages of a well established policy in their Statutes and By-Laws will be that Churches will get out of the “wedding business”, will be able to bless only the marriages of whom they oversee whereas being kindly and legally able to sustain a claim that any rejection of weddings of the general public within their walls is not discrimination.

The time has come, and again, I think by God’s Sovereign Act of disciplining the Body of Christ, that His Churches function more as the “assembly of those who worship God” and are under the supervision of a duly established Pastor or Bishop (the overseer) and not a community pleasing organization in the sense that, instead of “Christianizing the community, they are allowing the community to worldanize the church.”

Whatever has befallen to some Churches and Ministers in facing lawsuits from gay activists because of denial of facilities and ministerial blessing of a gay wedding (if such lawsuits are still in vogue…) is often the Churche’s fault for not safeguarding the mission that God commanded them to fulfill. Now a couple, from that church or not, can walk up to a minister, “rent” the church facilities for the wedding, either pay the minister of that Church for the wedding or bring their own minister and all is good. How is that not a fertile ground for all kinds of legal problems, including discrimination, if these same Churches deny the same facility and ministerial blessing to anyone? How is that not transforming a religious act, or a quasi sacrament for some, and a real sacrament for others, into a business? Want to keep your wedding revenues coming? If they do, save them because you will have to spend it all in lawyers and lawsuits and it will be your fault; you will lose! Sadly, the only way to avoid discrimination lawsuits is to discriminate by performing ONLY marriages of people within your Ministerial Oversight, or, the members of your congregation who agree to your definition of sin, marriage, sexuality, etc.

Christianity is a faith with no temple made by man’s hands; however this cannot be an excuse to consider a place of worship a “party hall” for the community and not even the “favorite wedding chapel” of the community. Without transforming church buildings in shrines, Churches must understand the difference between an exclusive worship place and the “community center”. This is old fashion but efficacious in swatting away lawsuit bugs. That can be achieved starting by ending the urge to generate revenues by providing a venue for non-member weddings.

A mental disease? #transgender

Dr. Paul R. McHugh
Dr. Paul R. McHugh

“…transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.”

(Former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry)

Well, this guy is a doctor on the subject… So, don’t kill the messenger!

read more here

If you seek me…

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...
Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had said that I was finished with blogging here, but something has struck me and it seems only proper to share.  Like most of the moments of understanding that I have, it came accidentally…most likely because when I am not paying attention, I get out of the way of the Spirit and let it do it’s thing. So, a story of my day yesterday…

I went to the local Asian fest with a neighbor and her out of town guest. My neighbor is Samantha, Sam or short, but she used to be something quite different, specifically a male. I have no interest to talk about the morality of the situation except to say that my thoughts and positions on the matter have not changed. That really isn’t the point of the story anyway. Incidentally, the Asian fest was a lot of fun with good company and good conversation.

Once I got home, I began to reflect on the afternoon/evening as is my habit and the words of Jeremiah 29:13 came to mind. (As a side note, this is why a study of scripture is important. The more of the word of God that you are familiar, the more chances the Spirit has to teach you). I know the context of the story, but also the spirit of it. The spirit of the story is fairly simple. If you seek God, He will ensure that you find him. I attempt to do this in my life and often fail, but yesterday I did not.

While contemplating the day, I found my mind drifting to thoughts of transformation and my struggles with it. Not the concept of transformation or the lip service that many of us pay to it, but real and genuine transformation. The type of transformation that makes something new. Something different. A new identity and a new outlook and goal. I realized that while transformation is the goal, I can not see it. When I look in the mirror, the first thing that I see is the same violent and drug addicted kid. The oldest sins committed in the newest ways. The wreckage of a life that caused so much harm. I can talk about transformation and being a new creation, but really, I don’t see it. Not in myself. I trust that God is completing the good work He began in me (when I get out of the way and let Him any way), but I can not see the transformation. Then there is Sam…

Samantha understands transformation far better than i do. She is legitimately a new creation in the eyes of this world. She is something different than she was. When Samantha looks in the mirror, she does not see what was, she sees what is. She sees who she has become, not who she had been. Got to admit, I am somewhat jealous of that. I desperately wish that I could see that in myself. I have got a handle on Jesus, but understanding transformation eludes me. Sam has a handle on transformation, but having a handle on Jesus eludes her.

So, what is the point? It’s simple really…see, I found a glimpse of God in a heathen transsexual who has a better grasp on the transformation that is a bedrock of Christian faith. I found that because I genuinely try to seek God so that I may find him. I fail at that a lot, but sometimes I manage. If all of us are trying to seek God, I think we would be amazed where He would reveal Himself. If you doubt me, ask Balaam how he encountered God, (Numbers 22:28) I imagine he was rather surprised as well. There is more to this realization on my part though…

I am seeking God and have a handle on Jesus but I am bogged down in the struggle of transformation, not because God is struggling, but because I can not see it or recognize in myself. I have to believe that there are many others struggling with the same thing (that belief helps, as no one desires to struggle alone). If that belief is true is it any wonder that our churches struggle as well? If we can not recognize and allow our personal transformation toward the likeness of Christ, then our churches will suffer in realizing their continual transformation closer to the perfect bride of Christ. Sam understands transformation, but she has no idea who she is seeking. Is it any wonder she can not find Him? I do believe that this is also a struggle of many in the church. We all claim to be seeking God, but do we honestly do it with all our being? If not, can we really expect to find Him?

I don’t agree with Sam’s choice. What I know is that Sam’s choice did lead to transformation, so that means that she already understand the hardest part of the faith to me. There is a lesson there for me about transformation. I have a good grasp on Jesus. If I can somehow manage to convey that grasp of the risen Lord to Sam, she begin to seek God as well and begin the path toward becoming more and more like Jesus. If you didn’t know better it sounds like a bad and offensive joke: “A heathen transsexual and a Christian go to the local carnival…” instead it was an amazing lesson about faith. Let’s seek God with all our being so that we may find Him wherever and in whomever He chooses to reveal himself. Let’s recognize transformation in ourselves so that in doing so we can be a catalyst for transformation in our churches and beyond. Let’s learn a lesson from Sam…let’s seek and be genuinely transformed into something so new and so different that the world we are in would not recognize it.

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What Is Expected And Reasonable?

Reason has more than one side. That which is reasonable and fair has to have other considerations than simply an “imposition” which is what “reasonable” is when it is one sided. A very poor constructed sentence, but it depicts exactly the mistake many are making today when they claim that “modern changes in societal rules and even laws” cannot be challenged by those who have benefited for centuries by the old ways even if it has been proven for centuries that the old ways have worked well and may not require changes.

Christians, and all kinds of conservatives, or other derogatory names one wants to use for this group not only have the right, but the duty to, and in fact, are doing society a favor, when they contest, protest and manifest against the rapid changes in society today because some of these changes have no track record of benefiting humanity. It seems that scholars and scientists will always appeal to history, evidence and a track record of fact to ascertain that whatever issue they are attempting to establish is feasible and that its implementation will be of a benefit to all. Except when it comes to issues where religion and/or tradition is involved. Then, who needs evidence, who needs history, who needs facts? It is almost as if they have made up their minds: “If it is religiously or traditionally prescribed, then it is wrong; let us change it”, even when in fact, there is history, a time span as old as history itself, that the old ways have worked so far.

No, this is not to say that we should not change and modernize society and make if fairer and comfortable to all! This is simply to say that it is fair for Christians and all kinds of conservatives to struggle with the idea of change for “change’s sake” in that which they perceive to be a threat to what they have known as the best for humanity in general. Not always stating that something is wrong is purely a religious exercise. Although I acknowledge that more frequent than not it is a religious exercise, some are sincerely concerned whether the recent changes in society, such as marriages, rules about “respecting other cultures to the point of surrendering to them” may not be solely basing their concerns on religion. People can protest for other reasons and it is fair and good that they do so when changes are in the process of proving itself as useful to society as it is for a group within that society, who, because of factors beyond our understanding, decided to impose their view of society upon all others.

I am a firm believer that one cannot legislate religious beliefs, no matter how well intended they are. Equally, I am a firm believe that one, or a group, cannot legislate their religious unbelief on others. In both counts protest is fair and acceptable. A great scholar is all over social media spreading the notion that Christians are attempting to legislate their beliefs upon society. Well, the facts belie such a scholar, who is not and cannot be a scholar in predicting the future consequences of changing society on society itself! Non-Christians are indeed imposing their beliefs, rather, their unbelief upon Christians with the aggravating circumstance that they practice such imposition against the will of the people of the community they choose to impose their unbelief. I am fully aware that we have to check if an acceptable degree of legal fairness is being afforded to all citizens and not only those who would prefer that tradition would remain as it has been for ages. However it is not by winning in courts that the imposition occurs; the imposition occurs when business, people who exercise their individual conscience, religious or not, have to comply with the peripherals of their victory and now have to act totally contrary to what they have held as truth functioning and comfortable to their own life styles all these years. So, by imposing, forcing, people to comply with their wins, those who win by the act of a single often non-elected office of the court, with his own biases and prejudices, reverse the issue of unfairness and begin themselves to act unfairly. Again, the facts have proven that Christians and other conservatives are adapting to the world that now surround them, but they should not have to live as a blind man by the road side taking whatever others dish out to them; they can rightfully establish limits. Certain services and profession when exercised to a person or group imply endorsement of that group or person. If you do not understand that you have never been in business, and your position is fully understandable. The refusal, however, of a businessman to provide services that automatically imply his endorsement and participation in that which he does not agree should be expected and understood and such understanding would be reasonable!

By now most presume to know that about which I am talking. No, for your surprise it is not only the issue of gays; it is also the celebration of America, American values, supposedly Christian symbols (that are not really Christian), and those that are indeed genuine Christian symbols, the liberation of drugs, and now some ridiculous rulings, which are too ridiculous to mention. People of faith and out of faith who want to preserve a certain heritage without waiving, who love to wear shirts that extol the quality of their military relatives, American Flags, etc. who feel threatened by lawsuits and other artifices of the “indignation industry”, and yes, those who do not agree with abortions and the gay issue, should not now, all of a sudden, be forced to comply or else. What is reasonable? If we want a fair society, then lets offer fairness rather than demanding it and in the process progress in an environment without hostility and division, and such environment is not a fertile ground for corrupt politicians, but not having corrupt politicians coming out of every sewerage is a fringe benefit of this new world of fairness!   That is expected and reasonable!

how to argue and not argue for #LGBT inclusion in the #UMC

St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage ...
St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage Pride march, 2010 (Photo credit: yksin)

This is a current discussion, you may have noticed, in the UMC. I thought I might just think aloud for a moment and ask you for your thoughts.

There are several reasons one can argue for inclusion (the term used to denote ordination to LGBT, etc… inside the UMC). There is usually one used to argue against inclusion  — “the bible.”

How to not argue for:

  1. Please do not suggest that because society is moving in this direction, we should too. The Church is no beholden to society, else we could argue against inclusion and instead for cleansing (i.e., murder) if we lived in Uganda. Society is relative. Society changes. Our society is not superior and thus should not be held as the moral absolute by which to measure the Church. Rather, the Church must push and pull society to a better morality. We must lead the way and not simply follow. If we do this, the Church becomes an appendage of society.
  2. Do not use the word “justice.” It is a word that has lost nearly all meaning when it comes to social, and legal, concerns because of the overuse. Not everything is justice.
  3. Do not argue for inclusion because “we need young people,” etc… See bullet point #1.
  4. Do not argue for inclusion because of “love.”

How not to argue against someone:

  1. Do not associate them with hate. There is a difference between hating someone and believing their lifestyle is wrong. Mainliners and more liberal Christians have lost the sense of sin. I believe in sin, but I may define it differently. I believe greed is a sin. Excess is a sin. But, do I hate rich people? No.
  2. Do not conflate all of those against inclusion into one pile.
  3. Do not marginalize. For the preachers of tolerance, the first thing they want to do is to marginalize those who disagree with them.
  4. Do not get offended so easily. Some are going to call you apostate, evil, servants of Satan. Let these things glide off your back.
  5. Avoid words like liberal, conservative, and progressive.

How to argue for inclusion:

  1. Do not be closed minded. Maybe you are wrong. If you are going to dialogue, dialogue. Discourse. Speak. Listen. Hear. Speak. Repeat.
  2. Find common ground so that even if you get to the point where you want to throttle another, you will find a place to stand together.
  3. Use Scripture. If you are a Christian, more likely than not, you will have Scripture as the basis of your faith. The more you perceive yourself as conservative, the more you will focus on Scripture. Therefore, if you are going to argue with someone, understand where Scripture (and what interpretative methodology) they use.
  4. Use Tradition. Argue for a progressive revelation beginning before Scripture and moving past Scripture. We accept the Trinity, among other things, because of Tradition. Therefore, Tradition is an authority. What has Tradition revealed? Discuss the fact that for the longest, women weren’t ordained. Discuss as well how natural law comes into this. If homosexuality is a sin, it is a sin because of natural law as defined by Rome through Aquinas. Of course, Protestants do not go this route. Help them to understand the role and value in Tradition, and the changes enshrined in Tradition (not to mention the decades of dialogue it took to make that change).
  5. Use Reason. This includes scholarship. Use theology. You simply cannot use this first. Why? Because Scripture predates scholarship; however, scholarship gives way to understanding Scripture. Be sure to understand both sides of the coin when speaking to a specific passage. Do you just argue why you are right, but argue that the prevailing interpretation is wrong because of X. Show that you know what is said and why it is said.
  6. Use Experience. Wesley’s experience was that of salvation. Understand this, that not all who say they are a Christian are in fact Christians. However, experience can be used to show humility. This is where the above three legs come into play. The Church has been wrong before. Christians have been wrong before. Are we so sure about this issue that we are ready to make concrete statements, either way? Arminians aren’t saved by Calvinists standards. Before Vatican II, Protestants were still heretics. Fundamentalists view almost all of Christianity as pagan or apostate. We can draw these lines of separation, but if we have the experience of humility — the same humility it took for us to first become Christian — then can we proceed with such concrete statements, either way?

So, what are your thoughts?

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