Sunday, January 22, 2017

First Baptist Church in Washington DC starts conversations on recognizing same-sex unions

Today, I did attend the conversations at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC about inclusiveness, as to whether the congregation would accept or welcome the performance of same-sex marriages in the Church.

There was a soup and sandwich luncheon, and then we divided into small groups of about six.
We were asked not to film and to keep the personal contents of the discussions confidential, except for our own statements.

As a general level, I’ll note that the excitement and disruption in Washington this weekend over the inauguration did not disrupt holding the talks (and there is one more next Saturday).  There were no unusual traffic or access problems today near the Church.

Furthermore, there seems to be little concern that the new administrations is actually likely, in practice, to have a negative effect on LGBTQ people.

I can say that there were remarks to the effect that marriage is an extremely important experience for most people who actually do it, and that there is no intrinsic reason why this would not be so for same-sex couples.  There is understanding that same-sex couples often do raise children.

There was understanding that in the developing world, hostility to homosexuality is common and much of it appears connected to local religious beliefs, some of which are deliberately provoked by “conservative” outside interests.

I did give a history of anti-gay attitudes in the past, even mentioning my own William and Mary expulsion in 1961.  I mentioned sodomy laws in the past, the AIDs epidemic, and the debate over gays in the military and DADT policy that emerged under Bill Clinton.  (I forgot to mention security clearances.)  There was acknowledgement that legal acceptance of gay marriage had developed rather quickly and suddenly.

I had actually started my own comments by noting that Dr. Pruden had been very progressive on civil rights and ending segregation in the 1950s.  Because the Church is so close to the White House, it is influential.  Pruden’s influence may have helped accelerate civil rights once Kennedy and particularly Johnson were in office.  The acceptance of interracial marriage (the film “Loving”) got mentioned.

I then said that history shows that what the Church congregation does will be noticed.  Most likely if the congregation accepts performing same-sex marriages, the press will report it, and Congress, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and White House will at least learn of if subliminally.  It was noted that because the Church is in both Baptist conventions, there could be some influence on the rest of the denomination, at least among more moderate or divided congregations.  So, by analogy to the Election that the “swing states”, “your” vote here counts more politically than normal, even if discussions are confidential.

It appears that this is viewed as a procedural, and not doctrinal matter.  It is not clear yet how the issue will be decided. A vote would sound possible. More details will be available later as they develop and become more public.

There is an issue for me, of course, with the way I run my own journalism and blogging.  There is a tendency for me to view anything that happens as having potential public significance, at least in setting examples, even if it concerns private citizens acting in a private mode.  I don’t like to work in “Snapchat” mode (in fact, I don’t use the app).

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