A letter to CFS and Friends (October 2018)
Hi CFS and friends,
As CFS have explored same sex marriage, we have enjoyed an energetic and love filled conversation over the last few months. We are now ready to discern what Jesus is saying by voting as a church on whether to conduct same sex marriages. Thank you to everyone who has joined in with this journey.
At 5pm on Sunday 14 Oct we meet for our next BLESS gathering to decide. After a brief summary of the journey CFS has been on, the community will vote on whether to be an affirming church and conduct same sex marriages.
We are using the premises of 57 West, 6 Clarence Road, Southend for the meeting.
Here are some final resources as we decide on the way forward with our LGBTQ+ friends. And whatever you understand on this you will continue to be part of the inclusive CFS community.
CFS has always been a deeply inclusive church. Right from the start in 2002, we welcomed all people: gay, straight, poor, rich, you and me! And you are safe with us whether looking in from the edge and wondering whether to get involved or already deeply part of us – you are welcome.
Encouraged by the opportunity to be involved in hosting a recent Southend Pride church service, and the LGBTQ+ people that continue to join our community, we feel it is a good time to decide on whether CFS conducts same sex marriages.
Choosing to explore same sex marriage has also been shaped by our desire to decide away from a request by a couple to be married. Such a situation would be pastorally tricky, and the same sex couple would understandably feel a decision was about them and not the matter as a whole. As no one is currently asking us for a same sex marriage, now is a good time to decide.
To help us think about these things: the CFS leaders have met to discuss and pray on several occasions; the church has explored this at the last church meeting; a Table Talk teaching meal was organised on LGBTQ+ matters; LGBTQ+ people shared their stories with us; and people have read books and watched videos.
It has been a delight to see CFS gently and seriously discuss and pray about same sex marriage: helping us to authentically become the people we are and to walk in step with the God we know through the Bible, Jesus and his Holy Spirit.
Surprisingly, no Baptist church in our region has as yet decided on conducting same sex marriages. May be this reflects views held in some churches and divisive arguments that can erupt when churches discuss these things. We are fortunate to be in a position where these conversations are possible and we are deeply concerned to tread carefully, avoiding unnecessary upset beyond CFS whilst honouring whatever we understand Jesus is saying to us.
On an aside, we helpfully identified in our conversations that, exploring the wrongs or rights of same sex marriage is unrelated to sex outside of a committed marriage and concerns about promiscuity. Sometimes these two unconnected matters can be confused and conflated.
Do you want to explore further?
We said we would signpost final resources, so here are some suggestions. Most of these have been offered already on CFS but you may well find new things for you to explore as well.
People in CFS say the experiences and stories of their LGBTQ+ Christian friends in and beyond the church have set them thinking and sometimes unsettled views they held for decades as Christians.
Any clear Christian thinking about LGBTQ+ matters, does it in the context and that means if you are not yourself LGBTQ+ then talking with your LGBTQ+ friends to find out their stories and experiences provides the needed real-life setting from which to do your thinking. (theology is done in context).
And you could listen to one story by reading Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame by Christian leader, Vicky Beeching. Quite a few in CFS have been reading this book and there are copies floating around which you can borrow. We have two other books with stories from gay Christians which you can borrow.
There are a series of good quality short videos by Dr Jonathan Tallon of Northern Baptist College. They focus on what are sometimes called the ‘clobber verses’ in the Bible which may seem to outline same sex marriage as wrong. Have a watch and you may be surprised. BibleAndHomosexuality.org
(Those who missed out on our previous explorations of the verses will want to know that they include: Genesis 1 & 2 on creation and ‘marriage’, Romans 1:26-27, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Genesis 19, 1 Timothy 1:8-10.)
Ask Peter if you would like to explore Christian thinking around this in more academic ways, presenting the various sides of the argument.
In conversation with other Christians
Peter is free for a chat or you could talk with your group or group leader.
It is good to be writing a letter which celebrates the gentle, Jesus centred and attentive way we have journeyed together on this as a church family. God bless you all, thank you, and see you on Sunday 14 October where we worship, eat together and decide.
Peter, the Community Facilitators and Trustees