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REV. DICK CLARK: We shall overcome!
Submitted by j on Tue, 2009-08-25 09:42
St. Timothys United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls is known for being open-minded. As a Reconciling Congregation, the church recently adopted a statement of inclusion welcoming everyone, including "those of all sexual orientations and gender identities."
The congregation's progressive history is what attracted Rev. Dick Clark eleven years ago. Rev. Clark was raised by very devout Christian parents. Going away to seminary opened his eyes to a variety of social justice issues, LGBT rights included.
"I read a lot about justice in terms of poverty and other issues, so it just fit," Rev. Clark said. "And people kept hammering away about homosexuality and the Bible. I'm very much interested in what the Bible says, so I was drawn to this issue."
Rev. Clark credits Jesus Seminar leader Marcus Borg with helping him "formulate what it is I believe, in a very liberal, progressive way. "
"I was already there as far as being open to gays and lesbians and gay marriage, but the theological framework wasn't really there."
St. Timothys becoming a Reconciling Congregation also gives Rev. Clark a lot of freedom to talk with his congregation about marriage equality, and he knows he has more liberties than pastors in more conservative parishes, and who are not so close to retirement.
"The course I tend to take in sermons is not so much to pronounce as invite people to think about things in a different way -- use stories to illustrate the injustice of a certain policy."
Rev. Clark says the Bible verses many Christians use to condemn homosexuality simply reflect the cultural, not moral, views of the time. They can be compared to the attitudes toward women or slavery, neither of which are cultural norms today.
And, adds Rev. Clark, "the Bible doesn't really know homosexuality as a committed, loving relationship." Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, was definitely not about loving relationships, and First Corinthians is a particularly tricky translation, which might not refer to homosexuals at all. Even the Romans verse many fundamentalist Christians use to justify vilifying homosexuals uses the wording 'natural versus unnatural.' "Natural is what's customary, not what’s moral. Is it natural for men to have long hair? For women? Who decides?" Rev. Clark said. "To me, it's not a strong argument."
According to Rev. Clark, “the Bible does not condemn homosexuality as a committed relationship at all; it's about fairness and compassion. Jesus reached across boundaries and built bridges. The Bible comes down firmly on the side of inclusion and fairness."
While Rev. Clark likes a lot of what the United Methodist Social Principles say, they still say homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings, and that same-sex marriages will not be performed by their clergy or in their churches. Unlike the Episcopalian Church, which recently gave the go-ahead for same-sex blessings and clergy, Rev. Clark does not see the Methodist Church changing very soon. The idea of different jurisdictions with different rules has been raised as a possible future direction for the Methodist Church.
"That gives me hope, but it's going to take a long time," Rev. Clark said. “We have a lot of work to do yet, but we shall overcome!"