A Word in Response, in Love, and in Hope

I try really hard not to get into arguments with pastors and other spiritual leaders. I know how tough the road is, and I know I don’t need others getting in my business so I know they don’t need me getting in theirs.

But sometimes I cannot stay silent.

Bishop Darryl F. Husband, Sr. has caused me to speak up. If you do not recognize his name, check out his op-ed piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for May 30, 2012 http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/rtd-opinion/2012/may/30/tdopin02-richmond-pastor-upholds-traditional-marri-ar-1950775/

Now, this is dangerous territory for me, speaking up to disagree with an African American pastor. I especially try not to meddle in the affairs of other religious bodies. But Bishop Husband has presumed to speak disparagingly not only of LGBT folks, but also to cast the President of the United States into outer darkness. Now, I am not endorsing President Obama here–this is my personal blog, but I connect it to the church I serve, and we don’t endorse candidates through or at church–but he is my president, our president, and when someone makes specious claims about him I certainly can join other citizens in objecting.

Besides, Bishop Husband makes claims about the calamity of marriage for all that simply defy logic.

I hardly know where to begin. But let me start with his claim that the President has little regard for the church and its leaders. This is utter nonsense. Bishop Husband begins to sound like the Vatican: disagree with us and we simply cast you aside. You are not a person of faith, if your faith does not coincide precisely with ours. I understand the militant regimentation of the Vatican, but I find it hard to reconcile with the free church tradition of which Bishop Husband is part. This president, like others in the past, regularly consults with religious leaders of all stripes. He worships God with little fanfare but with what seems to me to be sincerity. That he disagrees with Bishop Husband and others is a matter of conscience to be respected. Nor does it make much sense to claim that President Obama let his true heart unfold in public view as a way to gain votes. I hardly see this working that way so far!

Then there is the usual business of scripture. How sad that people continue to read their own prejudices into what they so piously claim is the Word of God. Nowhere in scripture can Bishop Husband prove to me that God sustains his claim that the only valid human relationships are those that produce children.

And what of his claim that that the president “seeks to weaken the voice of the once only free voice in our society (the African-American pastor)?”  Bishop Husband has convinced himself that the age-old authority of a pastor or priest or rabbi or imam to marry whom he or she deems fit will somehow disappear if same-gender-loving couples are eligible for legal marriage. This did not happen when the U.S. Supreme Court wiped away ugly anti-miscegenation laws and validated inter-racial marriage (see Loving v. Virginia, 1967)–but that did not stop white supremacists from making the claim Bishop Husband now echoes. I wonder if he remembers who his ancestors are in this business of denying marriage to those brought together by God in love?

I tell you that there is one way that Bishop Husband–and other clergy who deny the sanctity of marriage granted to same-gender-loving couples, and others they judge to be beneath their care–is damaging not only the pastorate but the larger church–and that is by persisting in denying the unfolding revelation of God. God keeps showing us new truth about love, and asks us to let go of control so that God’s love can touch all. But so many resist. There are consequences, as Bishop Husband says. But they are different than what he sees.

When couples from churches where pastors refuse to marry them for reasons of their sexuality and gender come to me, I always tell them I will not consider marrying them until they have asked their pastor to do so–because I want to be sure they show proper regard for their particular Shepherd’s Assistant (that is what we pastors are, not shepherds, but Assistants to the One Great Shepherd of Us All). They sadly come back to me with the report of rejection, usually judgmental and harsh, sometimes only distant and cold. I grieve at the loss of respect and affection which comes over these good people, and their sense of being left to wander without the leader they so clearly love.

I could go on, but this is already too long.

Bishop Husband is right about one thing. “Standards of living are important.” And I am grateful that President Obama has joined many other faithful people in recognizing God’s truth as it unfolds, claiming the standard of love, as Jesus taught, as the one true standard–generous love, not stingy, my-way-of-the-highway sort of love, but abundant love that touches and redeems all.

In that spirit, I not only speak up to offer an alternative view to my brother I also reach out to him in Christian love, to encourage him to be open to God’s continually unfolding revelation. I know he and I can meet there, with the Lord we both love so much.