FIRST, LET ME begin by apologizing. For too long Christians have used the Bible to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians (not to mention others). Homosexuality is not a sin—but discrimination is.
It was with relief for many (myself included) that the United Church of Christ (UCC), the denomination that I serve, became the first Christian church to endorse marriage equality in 2005. We took a lot of flak at the time, but it was the only responsible action to take. Today, a majority of Americans—including growing numbers of people of faith—support marriage equality.
Regardless, it cannot be denied that Christians have caused great harm to gays and lesbians either through overt bigotry or silence when gays and lesbians cried out for justice. We have much to repent for.
The general synod of the UCC proclaimed in 2005 that:
"The message of the Gospel is the lens through which the whole of scripture is to be interpreted. Love and compassion, justice and peace are at the very core of the life and ministry of Jesus. It is a message that always bends toward inclusion. The biblical story recounts the ways in which inclusion and welcome to God's community is ever expanding—from the story of Abraham and Sarah, to the inclusive ministry of Jesus, to the baptism of Cornelius, to the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the Greco-Roman world."
The acceptance of the theological worldview advanced by the UCC has been astonishing, as other Christian denominations, such as the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, have come to support marriage equality as well. What brought about this sea change? In part, it was anti-gay advocacy by the religious right.
Oregon's 1992 Measure 9 is a good example. That measure, which would have compelled the state to "discourage" homosexuality, prompted gays and lesbians to come out of the closet. When that occurred, it required our churches to struggle with the reality that our congregations included gays and lesbians (along with bisexual and transgender people). The impact was that it forced churches to decide whether or not to be welcoming of all people. This isn't what the religious right intended.
There is more work to be done, of course. Too many Christians still oppose equality. Some have even promoted new laws that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on a personal religious belief exemption. It is worth noting that when such a law was passed in Indiana, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted to move their annual meeting out of the state in protest. We cannot allow politicians or preachers to misuse religion as a tool to divide Americans for partisan political gain.
As has become the norm, numerous religious groups will march in Pride parades across the country, including Portland. This is how it always should have been. I'm sorry it took so long for us to get to the party, and ask forgiveness and grace from those we have wounded as we try to better live up to the teachings of Jesus, who turned no one away.
Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, a Northeast Portland resident, is the director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and university chaplain at Pacific University.
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