When I was approached by a member of our church to perform the wedding to her girlfriend, I wasn’t surprised or shocked. Since I started classes in seminary, I knew that this would be a part of my ministry as a pastor of a church and as a minister. We studied and discussed the LGBTQ question in each of our classes because our professors knew the world we lived in. My classmates and I didn’t always agree on how the church or a minister should respond to a request to perform a same-sex marriage, but we all knew as individuals, as ministers, and as churches we were going to have to address the LGBTQ question.
In my ordination council, I was asked how I would respond if someone asked me as a pastor to perform a same-sex wedding. I wasn’t surprised or shocked by this question in my ordination council. I knew this was going to be a part of my ministry as a pastor and as a minister. My response was the same as it would be if anyone asked me to perform a wedding. I wanted to sit with the couple and engage in counseling and after we sat together, we would work together to plan a ceremony or work together to continue to work on their relationship.
But after I was called to pastor and I began to talk to my pastor colleagues, I was shocked and surprised to hear that many of them weren’t planning on addressing the LGBTQ question in their congregations. They just didn’t think it would come up. Actually, they hoped it wouldn’t come up.
If it did come up, they were planning to decide what to do as ministers in a staff meeting or have a small committee decide and then inform the congregation of the church’s stance. I was shocked and surprised because in our discussions and conversations in our seminary classes, making a decision without a guided conversation with the entire congregation was the recipe for disaster. It meant that the church as a whole didn’t have the opportunity to work through the issue.
I slowly realized the disconnect that was taking place. In many cases, the pastors and ministers who were avoiding the conversation about the LGBTQ question or restricting the conversation to staff meeting or a small committee weren’t prepared for the question. These pastors and ministers went to seminary in a different day and age. Their classes and discussions didn’t mention or discuss the LGBTQ question at all.
We are at a transformational period in our churches. In light of marriage equality being upheld by the Supreme Court, which overruled individual states making laws to ban same-sex marriage, churches are going to have to address the LGBTQ issue in 2016. There is no way that churches are going to be able to avoid the issue.
The way churches and pastors handle the conversation around the LGBTQ question will greatly impact the future of the church. My hope is that pastors and ministers invite their young colleagues who have studied, discussed, and trained for this question in seminary to take the lead on these conversations because these young colleagues will be the ones who are responsible for leading and guiding the church into the future. My fear is that the pastors and ministers who weren’t trained for these conversations and are three to five years from retirement and who would rather not address the LGBTQ question at all will try to rush through the discussions and conversations surrounding the LGBTQ resulting in divided, broken and hurt congregations. These congregations will be left for their younger colleagues to try to reunite and reconcile into some kind of semblance of church. Please don’t leave us churches like this while you enjoy your retirement.
We aren’t scared of these conversations because we know this is part of our ministry and our calling. We have prepared to lead our churches and God’s people through this transformational period, but you have to let us in. You have to call us to be your senior pastors and your youth ministers and your children’s ministers. You have to ask us for our guidance during staff meetings. You have to invite us to the table.