DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:
Page and I have said many times how exciting it is for us when our lay ministers (every baptized Christian is a lay minster!) feel empowered and encouraged to preach in our service, as the Spirit of God moves them to preach. Dave Purcell has preached for us in DiscipleChurch previously, and his message has always been heartfelt, spirit filled and respectful. His last sermon on gratitude, from 1st Thessalonians, is one that I have remembered many times since he spoke. This Sunday, Dave feels moved to speak with us on a subject about which there may be some heartfelt disagreement. But as Page and I have also said many times, our worshipping community has given us all permission to take risks in speaking from our hearts. I am very pleased that Dave has the courage and the confidence in us to grapple with the issue of gay marriage. Below is his “pondering email,” as Page has taken to calling these previews.
“Brooks and Page tried their first experiment in letting me deliver a message in DiscipleChurch two years ago. With that common experience, I hope you can all listen to me this Sunday with open hearts as I talk about my own personal, spiritual conclusions about gay marriage.
“Over the last two years many of you learned about my own personal struggles with my faith – it is my most common topic! For example, I struggle with judgment and that was the subject in one message. I think my topic this Sunday may be one that is a struggle for many committed Christians as they strive to live a live out a life of faith. Apparently it is quite a struggle for the United Methodist Church as a world body.
“Like many people, I started thinking about gay people and then gay marriage many years ago. I considered two topics for this Sunday, redemption or this one, and I did not know the two cases on gay marriage were scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court. Then I decided now is the time, so with the hope that God inspires me and grants me understanding, I will try to focus on this question: is gay marriage consistent with Christian faith?
“This raises so many important and interesting issues that I cannot possibly cover them all, even if I get to participate like this for another two years. (See the list at the bottom! You may want to discuss some with friends and family, but maybe not at a party.)
“Jesus does not directly address any sexual or marital relationships between two people of the same sex. He does specifically recognize the sanctity of marriage. Those teachings are significant to me when I consider gay marriage and some of the specific admonitions in the Bible about homosexual conduct.
“I will try to at least touch on some of the passages that are often discussed in the context of same-sex conduct. I am writing this email on Wednesday and everything may be different on Sunday, but right now I will probably emphasize the Gospel passages below. I will certainly refer to many familiar Gospel passages and try to explain how that guides my heart and my thoughts about the passages here.
*Genesis 2:20-25, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
*Genesis 19:1-26, Sodom and Gomorrah, where “all the people to the last man, surrounded the house and called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who
came to you tonight? Bring them out so we may know them.” The men were two angels.
*Leviticus 18:22-24, “you shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination…Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways,”
*Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.
*Matthew 19:3-9, where Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, he quotes Genesis that a man is joined to his wife they become one flesh, then concludes “whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”
*Mark 10:2-11, once again questioned by the Pharisees about divorce, Jesus says “God made the male and female” and again says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and id she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
*Romans 1:26-27, men and women gave up natural intercourse with the opposite sex and were consumed with passion for one another.
*1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, where Paul says that lawsuits between believers are a defeat, it is better to be wronged, and that even believers wrong and defraud. He goes on to make a list of wrongdoers: “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Questions raised by this issue in general:
What does the Bible say about marriage?
What kind of institution is marriage?
Is marriage a civil proceeding or a religious ceremony or a combination?
What is the value of marriage to individuals and to society?
What does the Bible say about sex?
What is the role of sex in the marital relationship?
How does the Bible affect our beliefs about sex?
How does your family and cultural background affect your opinions and beliefs about sex?
How do we read and interpret the Bible?
No one follows all the rules, commands, and teachings in the Bible. How do we decide which ones to follow and which ones can be discounted or discarded?
How do we reconcile modern science and Biblical texts?
How does the Bible guide us in moral choices?
What does Jesus say about moral choices?
What does the Bible say about sexual morality?
What does Jesus say about sexual morality?
How do we change – in our views, our beliefs, our judgments, when we decide to follow Jesus?
What is the proper relationship between church and state?
How do religious beliefs affect government laws and regulations?
Your brother in Christ, Dave Purcell
Rev. Brooks Harrington
Methodist Justice Ministry of First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth
750 West 5th Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy.” Proverbs 31: 8-9