Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We Will Tell You Who to Bless, Comrade!

The LayMAN reported this from the L.A. Times

Same-sex blessing


In an unusual action, one Los Angeles-area Presbyterian church has filed a formal complaint against another, trying to stop a same-sex blessing ceremony scheduled for Sunday.

The "stay of action" requested by Bel Air Presbyterian against Brentwood Presbyterian was denied by a church judicial commission, and the blessing will proceed, leaders of both said.

"We're not trying to make an ecclesiastical statement," the Rev. Charles Svendsen, interim pastor of Brentwood Presbyterian, said of the planned ceremony for the Rev. Lisa Bove and Renna Killen. "We're doing this to extend pastoral care to two people who have been part of our faith community for many years."

Bove, an ordained Presbyterian pastor now employed as a medical social worker, and Killen, a bone marrow transplant nurse, have been attending Brentwood Presbyterian almost eight years, Svendsen said. They asked the church to hold the ceremony to celebrate their 10-year relationship and their family, which includes 9- and 6-year-old daughters who take part in the church's programs.

The service for more than 200 guests was planned partly with the girls in mind, Bove said. "To them, it's an important symbol of the church blessing our relationship and our family," she said.

Presbyterians, along with members of other denominations including Episcopalians and Lutherans, are deeply divided over issues related to homosexuality and biblical authority, including same-sex blessings and the role of gay clergy. Under current Presbyterian guidelines, same-sex weddings are prohibited, but blessings are permitted in certain circumstances.

The Rev. Mark Brewer, pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian, said that despite a long friendship with Svendsen, he and other leaders of his congregation felt obliged to file the complaint, even though the ceremony is not a wedding. "Our feeling was that the service was so close to a wedding that not to file would be compromising our understanding of Scripture," Brewer said.

"It's like calling a cop on a neighbor you're good friends with," Brewer conceded. "But because of our friendship, we also felt we could do this without a lot of acrimony. It's not personal. It's a theological thing."

Brewer, who said there were no plans to disrupt the ceremony, added that a decision had not yet been made about whether to appeal the judicial commission's ruling.

Bove said she and Killen were happy the ceremony could proceed, but saddened by Bel Air Presbyterian's action. "It's devastating to think that someone wanted to stop us from having this in our own church," she said.

Commentary: You'd think some folks would find other things to do than to interfere with another congregation's ministry.


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