A few months ago, a Georgia Baptist church voted overwhelmingly to approve allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church. That’s right: a Baptist church,in a southern state of the USA. The Macon Telegraph reported:
Members of First Baptist Church of Christ, one of Macon’s oldest churches, on Sunday overwhelmingly approved allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church.
The Rev. Scott Dickison, the church’s pastor, said the resolution passed with 73 percent voting in favor. About 230 members voted by secret ballot in a conference following the regular Sunday service. Dickison said that was about the typical size of the congregation on Sunday.
“I’m grateful for the congregation traveling together to this point, and it is an important point but it comes with some tenderness,” he said. “We will continue to heal together as we move forward.”
Yet this is not by any means unique. As marriage equality continues to advance around the world, churches everywhere are having to face up to the implications for their own congregations – and many that were once implacably opposed, are finding that they can indeed live with the new reality – or even embrace it.
For the First Baptist Church in Macon, the decision came after a long process of reflection and discernment, which began five years ago, with discussions about the Christian ethics of homosexuality. Their decision was a strictly local one, which is the way the Baptists operate. In the same way, somewhat counterintuitively, it was a Baptist congregation that was the first church in the UK to host a gay wedding service.
More importantly, this decision did not come in a vacuum. A year previously, the congregation had undergone an exhaustive process to clarify their essential mission and charism, as followers of Christ. The decision to approve gay marriage, in church, followed logically from their conclusions. From their website: