What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Understandable questions and some answers

There's been quite some discussion about my serving as a pastor at Steve's blog. It began when someone asked the following questions (quoted in full):

1) I don't know if this is the same classis as yours so if not forgive me, but how does the pastor of Marble Collegiate announce via the New York times he has preformed many same sex unions- marriages- and nobody brings him to trial? Two thoughts: 1- it appears that his classis is ok with this and 2- he not only did the actions but had not problem publishing it.

2) Ann, how can your classis permit you to do the work of ministry (w/o ordination) when your lifestyle is contrary to the very denomination your serve. It appears as if they are not doing anything. Would it not be better to say, "Ann, we have not made a descion concerning this issue as a classis; therefore, you will have to wait."
I think that these are important questions, and I want to address them not just in the comments section of Steve's blog, but also here. I think that it's really important that folks understand how it is that I am currently serving as the pastor at the Greenpoint Reformed Church. So here's the response:

Thanks for your comments and your questions. I can't really speak for the NY Classis. While I'm under their care, I'm not a member of the classis (students under care are members of their local churches). Nonetheless, I'll attempt to answer your questions. Please recognize, though, that I am only speaking for myself, and certainly not for the classis.

I do not know for sure how anyone feels about Rev. Williams' statement. But, I imagine that there are some people in the classis who are okay with Rev. Williams having performed same-sex marriages, just as I imagine that there are others who are not okay with it.

Given that his statement did appear in several newspapers, one can assume that Rev. Williams not only did the actions (ie. has officiated at same-sex weddings) and has no problem with letting people know about this. I know that for some people this may seem amazing, but it is certainly the case that there are, indeed, ministers in the RCA who not only support same-sex marriage, but have performed such weddings. I can imagine that given the current environment in many parts of our church that you might think that these ministers would not want people to know of their convictions. But that is not the case, many ministers who support the full inclusion of lesbians and gays in the church are open about their feelings.

As for your second question, that's also a bit more complicated. You see, I serve a congregation that for years has been in desperate need of a pastor. It used to be very small, and our neighborhood is one which had little to attract anyone to it. Basically, it was a poor church in a poor, predominantly Catholic neighborhood. No one wanted to serve the church as their pastor.

While I was in seminary, I was introduced to the congregation. I began to serve them as their student pastor, and during the first year things started to turn around. By the time I received a promise of a call to be the pastor it was clear that God had something exciting in store for our little congregation. Over the course of the past two years our church has gone from being on the brink of closing to become a thriving, alive congregation. We have kids and families and are meeting the spiritual needs of our community like never before. The power of the Holy Spirit is amazing and wonderful, and I do not know how to explain this transformation of our congregation except to say that God is present and alive here. It is only because of God that this is going on, and I do not want to take credit for it. But, I will say that having a regular pastor who is committed to serving and loving the congregation makes a huge difference and allows for such transformation and renewal to occur.

Which brings us to the situation regarding my service. You are correct, the classis could say "Ann, we have not made a decision concerning this issue as a classis; therefore, you will have to wait." But doing this would mean that the ministry of the Greenpoint Reformed Church would have to wait as well. The congregation and consistory are all very supportive of my call. The church is growing and thriving. The Holy Spirit is present, and things are happening now. Waiting would only keep people from experiencing the love and grace of our Lord – and that would be difficult for all involved.

While I understand that many people are aghast at this situation, I see it one way that God is affirming my call to ministry. If God didn't call me to this vocation, I do not think that the fruit of my labors would bear such fruit. Of course, I recognize that this has created a difficult situation for the greater church. But for our local church, it is not a difficult situation.

Our church is probably one of the few places where issues of inclusion are not at the forefront of our spiritual life. We open the doors to all, and then we see who God sends us. In our careful study and interpretation of the biblical texts, we have come to the conclusion that life-long covenantal same-sex relationships are not against the Word of God. I am treated like any other minister.

I hope that my response helps answer some of your questions. If you have others, feel free to ask and I'll try to reply to them as best I can. Also, if you (or anyone else) would like to visit our church and see for yourselves how God is at work in this congregation, you are most welcome. We're a very friendly bunch, and I think you'll discover that we're not so different from most other churches.


At 7:11 PM, Blogger Friday Mom said...

Nicely said, Ann.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Songbird said...

Ann, thanks for this. What a blessing you and the congregation are to one another.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Steve said...

"In our careful study and interpretation of the biblical texts, we have come to the conclusion that life-long covenantal same-sex relationships are not against the Word of God."

Ann, can you please explain the exegesis that took you to this conclusion, when on a surface reading of Scripture it seems so opposed to homosexuality?

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Scribe said...

Ann, allowing for time constraints given your "tentmaker" status, I would be interested in your response to Steve Hemmeke's query: "Can you explain the exegesis that took you to this conclusion?" {i.e., that life-long covenantal same-sex relationships are not against the Word of God}.

This would be very helpful to me, and I also believe that this is the key issue. There are countless people whose hearts want to accept gays, but their hermeneutic and their faith which is built upon that hermeneutic prevents them from doing so. Thanks.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Jarred said...

Hello, Ann. I found your blog through a link on Stacey's diary. I just wanted to let you know that I found this an incredibly written, and well thought out entry. I think this should especially be acknowledged and praised, given that I'd imagine this entire topic is near and dear to your heart. It's praiseworthy when someone can give a reply to such a thing that is heartfelt without being drowned in emotion.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger LutheranChik said...

Good stuff, Ann. Thanks for posting this.

At 10:34 PM, Blogger K. Paarlberg said...


Nice blog, lady. I'm glad to have discovered it. Also, I'm tentatively planning on coming up to Greenpoint Sunday morning, with a good friend of mine from Hope who's also just moved to the hood.

Have you read David Myers' new book? I haven't read all of it, but knowing Dave and how good his exegesis tends to be, it might be a good one to suggest to Steve, et al. if you don't have time to, you know, write your own book on the subject. :)

Here's Dave's book:


At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Lorna said...

Bless you for this answer.

I rejoice that your congregation is thriving - and am grateful that you have been willing to there, where others have not.

God will reward you for your servant spirit, of that I AM sure.

be so blessed :)


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