Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Yesterday the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally adopted a change to its constitution, the Book of Order, clearing the way for same-gender couples to celebrate their Christian marriages in the context of worship in a Presbyterian church.
That’s a wordy way of saying that my church just embraced marriage equality.
I was baptized in a Presbyterian congregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, more than a half century ago, and was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament (in the term of art of the day) more than 15 years ago. I’ve been connected to this little part of the body of Christ for a long, long time.
Today I am proud of my church, and even more so proud of my small congregation which has been out front on full equality, inclusion, empowerment – that is to say, radical welcome – for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer folk for decades. Clarendon opened its doors to support groups for people with AIDS in the mid-1980s, while the Reagan Administration twiddled its thumbs and the band played on. Faithful women and men at Clarendon have been engaged in this struggle far longer than my time here.
I’m smiling today, in particular, because this decision comes on the eve of the anniversary of the first state-sanctioned same-gender wedding I had the privilege of conducting, last March, when Ron and James finally tied the knot after 26 years of living in sin!
Even as I smile, though, there is an ache in my heart for those friends who did not live long enough to see this day. Doubtless, many of the people in those early AIDS support groups are held in sacred memory – names stitched on swatches in the quilt. More personally, I am thinking of friends and colleagues in ministry who lived their professional lives in the closet or who did not serve the church professionally because they were forced to choose between love and vocation.
The arc of the moral universe is long. I have lived and worked this far with the strong conviction that it bends toward justice. Doing the work of love bends it a bit further, but I know that many hearts are broken along the way. So while I celebrate the bending that I have been so richly privileged to participate in, I also hold a space of mourning in my heart for those grievously wounded by justice denied.
It is possible to dance with joy and with sorrow, and to trust in the lord of the dance.