I keep telling people that nothing has changed.
Don’t get me wrong. When the news of the vote regarding Amendment 14-f began blowing up my Facebook news feed and emails streamed in from colleagues and congregants alike, I went into prayer and praise. I left comments on threads, liked posts, and fielded phone calls celebrating the decision. I was called by Why Marriage Matters Ohio to be a media spokesperson, and I happily agreed. But I stopped short when I read one (resurrected) headline:
PC (USA) Redefines Biblical Marriage
In one regard, I guess it is true. There are no fewer than eight types of biblical marriage. But this vote, while historic, has done nothing to change what marriage means or what the Bible says. It has levied no requirements upon Teaching Elders or Sessions; it has not set forth a draconian or hegemonic policy that violates the conscience of our well-meaning brothers and sisters who object to same-gender and same-sex marriage. To be sure, it lifts the specter of denominational charges being levied against a pastor who sanctified such a union. This is reason enough to express joy, but marriages do not suddenly have God in them because of a human vote.
I will boldly say that God was long ago sanctifying these unions. Our recognition of what God has already done does not shift anything in the cosmos; contrary to what objectors might contend, we who voted in favor have not cast the PC (USA) into the depths of hell. It gets dangerous when any of us claim that we have God on our side and others do not (I believe that there is a distinction to be made between claiming that God is “on our side” and proclaiming that God sanctifies marriages between two persons; reasonable people can disagree), the fact is I do not believe that those who oppose the sanctifying of marriage between two persons to be devilish, unChristian, or bound for hell. I passionately disagree with their position, but I remain just as willing to work together on myriad other issues as I was the day before the final vote came down. And God remains God, spreading love like leaven in dough or weeds in a garden.
I have shared in a previous blog the thoughts I expressed when my own Presbytery voted, and now that the final decision is in nothing has really changed. I expect those who spoke against the amendment to remain against it; and I expect that those who were then willing to send couples to me will remain willing. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to not only lovingly accept these couples, but to lovingly thank the pastors and Sessions that send them to First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs. But no damage has been done to the Gospel. And I will say–perhaps to the chagrin of those who share my opinion–no victory was won for the Gospel. It remains the same. The vote simply allows us, in full accord with our polity and roots as Calvinists–to interpret Scripture in accordance with our consciences. With that said, changes in the PC (USA) Constitution and the Book of Order can be regarded as big; for some, it is an affront to tradition; to others, like myself, it is a change a long time in coming and something to laud. Regardless, let none of us argue that somehow the Gospel is on our side and not on the side of others. Let us continue to respect one another in God’s love, not denying our fellow Christians their identities as members of the Body of Christ.
I write this post not to dampen the celebrations or to downplay the significance. What has happened is most certainly important, but I think that when we step back and look at the scope of things, we’ll see that the needs of people remain the same, and the call of the Gospel continues. We have work to do for justice, to increase people’s access to food and housing, to shine light where there is darkness, and we remain a people committed to being God’s hands and feet in the world.
Nothing has changed, but the change is not nothing.