United Church of Christ New York Metropolitan Association
      Letter From Michael Caine
 

   

Who’s Reacting to Marriage Equality?

By Regional Conference Minister Michael Caine

The General Synod Resolution on Marriage Equality has caused more reaction than any previous General Synod action I can remember. And not all the reactions are negative!

--Some people are prouder of our church with this commitment than they've ever been.

They cannot believe that we are living up to what we say we believe. Or that their church has found ways to use its authority to make America reconsider its prejudices.

--Some, scratching their heads, are trying to figure out what the big deal is: the United Church has been striving for over 30 years for equality, justice and respect for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. With our President having suggested a constitutional definition of marriage earlier this year, wasn't marriage equality just seizing the day in the struggle for justice?

--Others are dismayed that their church is so far from their own understanding of God's will. They are frustrated that the General Synod would make such an historic decision without consulting them. And they worry what Marriage Equality means for their local church, or for our ecumenical relations with other churches, or for their reputations in their communities. Across the country, though not so far in NYConference, there are small, but noticeable numbers of congregations leaving the denomination over Marriage Equality.

Let's start where I hope we can find common ground. We don't want to see any more of our churches desecrated, burned or vandalized. We won't countenance UCC people or leaders verbally or personally being attacked. We don't think that, no matter how passionate one feels about the issue either way, it's faithful to hope, as a UCC grandmother in Pennsylvania did, “that anyone who disagrees with me burns in hell.” As our Conference Minister, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, has suggested: “Here again let's count on our UCC tradition of diversity without division. Marriage Equality, a General Synod Resolution, doesn't need to be a covenant-breaker.”

In the United Church of Christ, General Synod does not have authority over the local church. Neither is it an instrument for polling our congregations or taking the denomination's pulse. In fact, General Synod isn't a body reflecting the current make-up of our church. Instead, it's an assembly comprised of the population God is waiting on to make up the church. Whereas pictures show our first General Synods made up of older, white, male pastors, over the years General Synod has deliberately “affirmative action-ed” lay people, women, young people and folks of color. You might see how previous General Synods' actions are also often more about the world as it should be, rather than the world as it is. General Synod is prophetic—moving us ahead towards what God means the church to become. It's our commitment to getting further than where we are to help us grow to where God needs us to be.

And, by the way… particularly you who are very passionate for or against this resolution, have you actually read it?

(The resolution, as passed, begins on page 30 of the Official General Synod Minutes which can be found at http://www.ucc.org/synod/pdfs/gs25minutes.pdf . Preceding the resolution are the minutes of the discussion of the resolution.)