Saturday, 9 January 2016
Same Sex Couples In Church: Repentance Or Deepening?
St John's Church hopes to begin strengthening its core this year: the first half of this decade saw a focus on outreach; now, like a tree, we need to look to building up our internals.
Meanwhile, on this blog I hope to put a lot of focus on Paul's letter to the Galatians; just as last year I focussed on Mark's Gospel.
So consider a hypothetical situation arising in St John's at the end of 2016.
Suppose we find ourselves attracting several same-sex couples. Not by any special outreach from us, but simply by someone coming to Sunday morning worship one week and feeling a warmth and welcome - from the people present, but also from another Presence in the place and in the worship.
So she comes back, then - after a few weeks - she brings her girlfriend. People either don't notice or don't care about their relationship and both feel welcome, along with that sense of Presence. They tell their friends, at least the religiously-inclined among them, and St John's finds itself with unexpected growth.
I suspect some of the rest of the congregation would feel awkward - after all that sort of thing was illegal when they were brought up; a few others would be pleased that we were starting to engage with the 21st Century; but most, I'd guess, would go for the classic laissez-faire position that people's private lives are their own business.
But we're looking to partner with other local groups, including other churches; we're also looking to focus on discipleship and building up the faith of our members. So what if we partner with a local evangelical church - there are plenty in the area - who tell us that, whilst God welcomes all into the Kingdom of His Son as sinners, he doesn't want us to stay that way. Part of following Jesus is to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus' ways, as laid out in the Bible and in the Godly traditions of the Church.
Being keen and articulate our evangelical friends start convincing the wider congregation that it is necessary for those members in same-sex relationships to really start thinking about ending them ... in God's time, of course.
Maybe someone who was particularly instrumental in welcoming these couples in the first place takes exception to this and speaks up to denounce it. They insist that the congregation's place is neither to weaken people's relationships, nor even to just passively accept them, but to work to strengthen the couples, with the eventual aim of committed exclusive covenantal relationship: marriage.
What is the right thing for the congregation to do?
Welcome to the world of the Galatian Church in 48-49 AD (actually the analogy is probably closer to the church at Antioch, but the letter covers both).
May Jesus' grace and peace be yours throughout 2016.