2.05.2005

Bring marriage debate back to the secular world

There has has been a lot of news coverage in the media of Christian opposition to same-sex marriage. Not all Christians are opposed as you will find in the interview of United Church Minister, Rev. Dal McCrindle. Recently Canada's largest Protestant denomination, the United Church issued a letter outlining its support of extending the rights of marriage to same-sex couples.

Recent polling data backs the United Church's position. A poll reported by Lifesite.ca indicated that at least 45% of United Church and Roman Catholic members attending church on a regular basis (more than once a month) support same-sex marriage.

All the attention same-sex marriage has drawn from religious organizations has dragged the debate out of the secular realm where the debate properly belongs. The issue is a civil matter for Canadians and Canadian society in how we treat citizens. Religions can go about their business, recruiting members to believe what they believe and live among themselves as they choose.

The debate must come back to the fact that Canada is not a theocracy, we are a secular country. A country can not be both as the United States is finding out the hard way.

The article from the Maple Ridge News below puts forward the United Church's recognition of gays and lesbians entitlement to worship within the Christian community and the view of Rev. McCrindle that the Conservative party has politicized the debate.

Churches divided on same-sex vows

Rev. Dal McCrindle doesn't attend the monthly Ridge Meadows Ministerial Association meetings.In fact, he's been to only one of those gatherings since he became the minister of St. Andrew's Haney United Church. Nor does his church contribute financially to the ministerial association, although he's on the mailing list.

It's just easier that way given the divide in the religious community."I've felt separate from the rest of the ministerial as long as I've been in Maple Ridge, which is nine years," McCrindle said Wednesday. "I didn't feel very warmly received because of my association with the United church, so I never went back.

"It's not that those in the United Church and the ministerial association are angry at one another over sanctifying same-sex marriage - they're just in a different space, McCrindle says. To his knowledge, the United Church is among the few churches (Metropolitan in Vancouver and Unitarian are two others) that have performed gay marriages since they became legal in B.C. in July 2003.

Two such marriages have taken place since St. Andrew's Haney United. But the United Church of Canada, an amalgam in 1925 of Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists, has been on the cutting edge of Christian liberalism for decades.

The United Church decided in 1988 that being homosexual or lesbian is not enough, in and of itself, to disqualify someone from belonging to the church. As a result, gays and lesbians were also qualified to become ministers. In 1937, the United Church allowed women to take to the pulpit. The United denomination was also the first to allow divorced people to remarry, something that's been in place since before 1960s.

"We've been a church that looks at people for who they are. We think that God would have compassion on this person and so do we," McCrindle explains. Following the same-sex ruling in B.C. in 2003, the board of St. Andrew's Haney wrote its own marriage policy, which has since inspired other churches. The policy removes sexual orientation from the question of whether two people can get married in the church.

Anyone with a sincere belief in wanting a church marriage, providing they have a valid marriage certificate, stands a strong chance of being able to get married at St. Andrew's. That doesn't mean a couple who just wants a church wedding will find the doors flung open, said the reverend. Ministers still refuse wedding requests or suggest more suitable venues for a ceremony.

The fear that religious leaders will be forced to conduct gay weddings is preposterous, he adds. "We have been denying people for decades," he said. As well, each United church congregation can decide whether to have same-sex marriages although when the Haney United Church board announced its policy to the congregation, there wasn't much of an outcry from the congregation.

"Any two people with a valid license can get married here," he said. "The important aspect for us is are they seeking a religious component to what they're doing." McCrindle doesn't see how legalizing gay marriage would lead to legalizing polygamy. "Our understanding of scripture is that covenanted relationships are between one person and another," he said. "I don't think there would be much room in the United church to harbour the concept of polygamy."

He pointed out the United church has asked for an investigation into Bountiful community in B.C. composed of a breakaway Mormon sect that allows men to have several, usually younger wives. The reverend added he's disappointed about position taken by most Conservative MPs opposing gay marriage. "For me, I think it's sad that the Conservatives are taking the stance," he said. "They're pushing the rest of us back to vote Liberal when we don't want to.



1 comment:

bruce said...

Thank you for reminding people that this is a civil issue. You have a great talent for keeping things in perspective. The righteous, religious, holier that thous (not sure if that’s a word) still have the freedom to discriminate within the confines of their own organizations and they should feel lucky to have that.