Saturday, June 11, 2005

Wading In

From columnist Bill Wineke of the Wisconsin State Journal, writing on upcoming consideration of homosexuality-related resolutions in the UCC and ELCA:
The question of how to treat gay and lesbian people seems about to start causing even more division between church people.
...
But one example of hope comes from the Roman Catholic Church of all places. Not only that, but it comes from the man who is now the world's top Catholic doctrinal watchdog.

The Catholic position on gays and lesbians has been pretty much stereotyped as one of negativity.

Enter Archbishop William J. Levada, the man Pope Benedict XVI selected to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the job the pope held under Pope John Paul II. When Levada was archbishop of San Francisco, he found a way between competing factions.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Levada found himself in a conflicted situation in 1997, when San Francisco adopted a law requiring contractors receiving city funds to provide health benefits to gay, lesbian and unmarried partners of their employees.

Catholic charities in San Francisco at the time received $5.6 million in funds for programs helping the poor, homeless and sick. But Levada, as spokesman for his church, could hardly condone people living in "sin."

He might have stood on a soapbox and proclaimed morality topped making deals with Satan. He didn't.

What he did, the National Catholic Reporter said was to strike "a compromise that allowed employees to designate 'any legally domiciled member' of their household to receive 'spousal equivalent benefits,' whether the recipient was a mother, a brother or a gay partner."

Makes sense to me. The compromise took the Catholic charities off the hook. It took the city - which depends on those charities to offer care - off the hook. It not only provided benefits for gay partners, it also extended those benefits to others who provide care for loved ones.


Sounds good to me, too. But then Wineke's got to ruin it with his last graf:
Most UCC congregations already bless same-sex unions. I'm not sure why the church wants to get into the political battle about marriage. It might do better to hold up a standard of committed relationship that might serve as a template for all unmarried "couples."

Wineke seems to believe that the UCC is more hierarchical than it really is. In fact, the resolution being considered was brought to our "General Synod" in a referendum-style process. Resolutions, plural, really: there are two competing measures, one that would affirm a traditional definition of marriage, and one that would defer the decision. This is the way we talk things through in the UCC; we toss out ideas, see what sticks.


More to the point, social justice is a deeply-rooted tradition in the UCC. It may cause trouble, but then, who ever said Jesus Christ called us to make nice? Sometimes the waters need to be troubled and the shit needs to be stirred. I can appreciate Archbishop Levada's commonsense dealmaking, but I'm not willing to hold it up as the model of faith in our society, thanks.

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