Monday, June 22, 2009

Clergy continue to call for marriage equality

The Rev. Vivian Ruth Waltz, a founding member of the Western New York Reconciling Ministries Network and a member of the Pride Agenda's Pride in My Pulpit program, wrote this moving opinion column in The Buffalo News:

Movement recognizes gays as part of God’s plan

Marriage equality for same-sex couples is a hot-button issue nationwide, but here in New York it is particularly timely to consider. Recently, the State Assembly passed the marriage equality bill by an overwhelming margin for the second year in a row. The parallel legislation in the State Senate has been held up by the leadership dispute between Democrats and Republicans.

The bill provides same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. The bill also provides that no member of the clergy may be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony.

In contrast to the principles of our nation’s founders, same-sex marriage is one issue where the separation of church and state often becomes indistinguishable. Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo, cited “religious factors” in his district as his chief reason for opposing the bill.

When it comes to same-sex relationships, it seems that “religious factors” is synonymous with the impulse to oppose marriage equality. The so-called religious right appears to be winning the argument, if only by out-shouting other faith-based convictions.

But there is a quiet groundswell of gentle people of good faith who believe that justice will be served only when our laws reflect the truth that all God’s children are of sacred worth. They know at heart that homosexuality is part of the diversity of God’s glorious creation, not a choice to revel in a sinful and decadent lifestyle.

For close to 40 years, the Welcoming Church Movement has gathered together denominational networks of Christian communities that are supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Often in opposition to the official policies of their religious bodies, these defenders of ecclesiastical rights envision a future of full inclusion for all of God’s beloved people, both within the Church and society.

Welcoming Christians recognize that Jesus’ own community prohibited him from reaching out in love and protecting those society had deemed unworthy of equality—the “least of these” whom he encountered. But the religious hierarchy of his day could not prevent him from doing what was right in the sight of God, and as a witness to the truth before even the most outraged people around him.

Alive and growing, the Welcoming Church Movement encompasses many churches, clergy, religious and laity here in Western New York. These are the places where the spirit of love is moving in our midst, a spirit that does not distinguish between different sexual orientations.

Here are the prophets who are filled with joyful expectancy of the time when all people will be embraced in life and ministry in Christ’s name. They are just waiting for their churches to catch up.

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