July 11, 2016
Dear beloved parish.
You will likely have heard news through friends and media that at our national Synod gathering, the motion to change the marriage canon to include same-sex marriage was defeated by a very small margin. This was not the only work of General Synod, but certainly the work attracting the most publicity.
I can’t offer you a delegate’s version of the story (I’m told there was no celebration in the room and some wept), nor can I offer you our bishop’s direction in this – her words may follow, but I share with you my own view as an individual member of the clergy of this church and as your pastor.
While I do care which way the vote went, you may be surprised that it is not actually my chief concern. I am someone who has grown up surrounded by this debate and my chief concern has become this:
The system failed us.
We are using the legislative system which inherently sets up a group of winners and losers. The legislative system is indeed a handy way to get to a decision efficiently and on schedule, but it fails miserably at building up a community, at inspiring faith, or at honoring the pain that any one issue evokes.
We are a people who are so steeped in the legislative system that we overlook the existence of other systems available to us. I have seen my church struggle to build strength around divisive issues, and we have been yet unable to make the systematic change. I am thinking personally of what I might be able to do to encourage a new way. I am drawn to our aboriginal brothers and sisters who, pre-discovery, had functioned on consensus, eldership, and a whole-community mentality for millennia. What might the church learn from this history in this season of reconciliation?
I am sad especially for active LGBTQ members and for those who view movement towards full reception of LGBTQ members as a move of the Spirit and a Gospel imperative. I have heard some of these folks (via social media) fall into despair. May they be blessed for the way they have spoken forthrightly and courageously in the church. I think also of those who voted against the motion, likewise for gospel convictions and a sense of what the church must do to remain faithful. Both voices are welcome, both needed. What we must not do, but what we did in this vote, is to set the two voices in opposition. We must not speak as if there can be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the church. We must choose community over choosing sides. We must choose a system that unites in common discernment, over a system that divides and hurts. We must understand that all our individual perspectives are inherently limited and that we need all voices to hear the voice of God. As St. Paul prods the divided Corinthians – “can Christ be divided?” I hear the Spirit calling us to change the system.
If your neighbors and family ask you about the vote, speak from your heart what you feel and know. You may also share with them my view, or you may abstain for lack of knowledge. Trust your own discernment, and above all in our interactions, I invite you to practice the pattern of humility Jesus has etched out for us in his radical self-giving.
Rev. Jonathan Crane
revjcrane (at) yahoo.com