Monday, July 30, 2012

Into the Lion's Den

Last night several of us from the Cathedral found ourselves at Skyline Church in La Mesa to hear and in my case, possibly participate, in an event called “A Conversation About the Definition of Marriage.” Put together by Skyline’s pastor, Jim Garlow, there were four panelists, two for what we would call an inclusive view of marriage, Bishop Gene Robinson and Dr. John Corvino, and two for the view marriage should be between a man and a woman, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and Dr. Rob Gagnon.

 It was, as hoped by Pastor Garlow, a civil discussion, with each side given extensive time to speak, and as such a tremendous breakthrough. None of us, including Pastor Garlow, knew quite what to expect given the strong feelings on the issue. Certainly we Cathedral folk didn't, given that Skyline Church had been in the forefront of the pro Proposition 8 campaign in California. However, my experience of the Skyline parishioners last night was that they could not have been more welcoming or helpful.

And after sleeping on it, I am very thankful I was there, and believe it was absolutely a step in the right direction. But I think it addressed the wrong issue. Rather than a conversation about the definition of marriage, it would have been more helpful to simply have a conversation about marriage. As long as we talk about the definition of marriage we distance ourselves from the reality of marriage and the fact marriage is about relationships involving flesh and blood people. It is about the two people directly involved, their children if they have any, their families, and their communities (including their faith communities and relationship with God, if so inclined).

Allisyn moderated part of the event
 While I do not want to say we should never deal with hypotheticals, academic studies, and the like, if we don’t look at the effect policies, regulations, and even tradition have on real people we are in serious danger of becoming like some of the Pharisees Jesus encountered—more interested in the law than what the law is trying to accomplish. It is one thing to hear about “Biblical” definitions of marriage as we heard from Dr. Robach Morse and Gagnon, and quite another to hear the effects those definitions have on people such as Bishop Robinson and Dr. Corvino who are striving to live their lives with integrity and faithfulness. This concern and sense was certainly on my mind when Pastor Garlow invited me on stage to ask a question.

Obviously I have a position on this, as did all the panelists, and while I do not think any minds were changed, hopefully some hearts were. Towards the end, Bishop Robinson told all the people who attend Skyline they should take care of their pastor because he did a brave thing and no doubt has, and will continue, to take criticism for putting on the event. And Bishop Robinson is right. As for me, last night reinforced how marriage, and seeking God’s blessing, is about inviting God into the midst of our most intimate relationship. Thanks be to God.

The Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas 

We'll be publishing more thoughts about the Skyline event over the week (to read them all, click here).  Don't forget the upcoming 9am Forum Series asking "What makes long lasting relationships?" led by Dr. Marjorie Coburn, a clinical psychologist. The first forum on Sunday August 5th at 9am will feature the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas, who will discuss the recently approved Liturgy for Blessing the Unions of Same-Sex Couples. 

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