Shuck and Jive

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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Safe Places for All People

On Saturdays I check out the Johnson City Press Faith section. Jim Dahlman of Milligan College wrote a column today about security issues in churches. He writes about a couple of local congregations as they wrestle with security questions in light of the recent incident in Colorado. It is a thoughtful piece.

Personally, I think it only makes sense for congregations to take measures for security. I think it is important for congregations to have this conversation and to set up measures for protection. We protect ourselves in many ways from many things. Congregations have policies and procedures in place to protect our children from sexual predators, for instance. It is crucial for congregations to be sanctuaries--safe places--and this includes security from those who would wish to harm those who come to these places for prayer. You can do a lot without resorting to armed guards. That depends upon the context. In all cases, vigilance and common sense, without paranoia and hysteria, are the keys. Congregations do need to have these conversations.

In the same section today, an article highlights clergy who will not sign marriage licenses to protest what they feel is discrimination against same-sex couples. I am not sure how many PCUSA clergy have taken that stand, although I do know of one:

David Ensign, pastor of Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA, and his congregation have taken that step:

In our time, gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual individuals face painful discrimination in the culture and within the church. Civil laws governing the rights to marriage and to other forms of life partnership are overwhelmingly discriminatory against gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual couples. Whatever the symbolic meaning of marriage, the real legal aspects are crucially important and same-sex couples face daily discrimination related to taxes, wills, property ownership, rights of next-of-kin, Social Security and others. This is particularly, painfully true in the Commonwealth of Virginia today.

Therefore, responding to God’s call to do justice, to the command of Jesus the Christ that we love one another as he loves us, and to the Presbyterian Book of Order statement that “The Biblical vision of doing justice calls for: ... supporting people who seek the dignity, freedom, and respect that they have been denied; ... redressing wrongs against individuals, groups and peoples in the Church, in this nation, and in the whole world” (W-7.4002), the pastor of Clarendon Presbyterian Church will not participate as an agent of the state authorized to pronounce legal marriages.

David blogs at Faithful Agitation.

I have not made that decision, yet. At First Pres., we have taken a progressive stand for our area. I do sign marriage licenses. And we offer Holy Union Ceremonies on site for gay and straight couples who either cannot have or do not wish to have a civil marriage. Here is our policy.

Both articles relate to congregations being safe places, sanctuaries, where people can feel safe to embrace the sacred and to be embraced.