A reflection on same-sex marriage
One of the greatest tragedies of the Church is that throughout its long history, it has consistently committed grievous errors in judgment concerning society and morality, and has at times contributed towards and even led in the discrimination of others just because they are “different”.
Despite the clear witness of the Bible that we worship a god who loves radically and unconditionally, the Church time and time again has misused scripture, and read its own “human” assumptions into its concept of God.
The latest example concerns the issue of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. I don't always agree with the positions taken by the United Church of Canada, of which the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Bermuda is a part, but the UCC has spoken “prophetically” on issues of discrimination, and has through its history consistently led other denominations in its inclusiveness of others, standing with the gospel against racism, sexism and, more recently, homophobia.
There is a core problem at the heart of the argument used by many conservative Christians to support their opposition to same-sex relations and marriage, in that they base their position on a “fixed” idea of a “Creator God”, rather than trying to understand the complexity of human sexuality through the lens of the triune God of “relationship” — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The overemphasis that Christians place on a “Creator God” tends to support those things that “we already know”.
It confirms our well-established understanding and comfort with “order” and “complementarity”. However, science will always challenge our preconceived ideas about creation, including issues of sexuality.
“New knowledge” always shows that our universe is far more complex and diverse than we can ever imagine. But when the Church bases its theology and its response to societal issues on its own limited assumptions about the “created order”, when it places more emphasis on the “text” of the Bible rather upon Jesus Christ, “the Word” whom the Bible gives witness to, then it replaces the reality of God revealed through Jesus Christ with a “Creator God” of its own understanding, a God which in fact we “form” from our own thoughts and prejudices to sustain our comfort with the “status quo”.
In essence, this is a form of idolatry because it results in a god conceived by human assumption rather than the God of revelation, the One who declares, “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14).
To my fellow Christians in Bermuda who are preparing to vote on the upcoming referendum, I'm sure that your decision will be based on much prayerful reflection of the issues, but I would also suggest that as you seek God's guidance, ask yourself whether your decision is influenced by the “text” of the scripture, or by “the Word” which the text gives witness to?
Is your decision influenced by a god of your own assumptions and comfort with the way things are, or is it based on the God who continually surprises, the One who through our shared humanity with Jesus challenges us and our society to act justly, and to love mercy (Micah 6:8).
David Atwood is a Bermudian preacher, member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Bermuda and past chairman of the Wesleyan Methodist Synod. He is living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is in the third year of a Master of Divinity programme at the Atlantic School of Theology
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