The ministry web site, ChurchLeaders.com, reported news of an unfortunate event in Colorado, and then asked the provocative rhetorical question: “How would you have handled it?” After a little thought I decided I would take a stab at taking the question, taking it beyond the mere rhetorical, and actually trying to answer it – albeit purely hypothetically.
Here’s the situation:
Pastors of a church in Lakewood, Colo., halted a funeral service in their church for a lesbian woman on Saturday, January 10, because the tribute video the family prepared showed photos of the woman kissing her partner. Fifteen minutes after the service was to begin, lead the pastor canceled the event when organizers would not edit the footage out of the video. Mourners, which numbered more than 150, then re-loaded the casket into the hearse, gathered the flowers and proceeded across the street to a mortuary, where the service continued.
Whether this account gives sufficient accurate details, I do not know. Assuming that it does, I still think I would have reacted differently than the pastor of the church. But lingering questions also make my response conditional.
First, I would want to know if the deceased woman was a member of the congregation or not. It would make a difference. I am assuming that she was not, since there is no mention of any connection with the church. And what is stated would seem to suggest she was not; that this was simply a business arrangement the church had with the local funeral home.
New Hope Ministries was chosen for the memorial service because of its location – close to where Collier and her friends grew up, friends said.
So my first thought is that, to the degree it us up to me, I would not likely have voted to approve the service at our church in the first place. However, since the service had been approved, I am uncomfortable with the decision of the pastor to stop the service in progress.
Someone might be curious as to why I would not have voted to approve the service in the first place. Perhaps there may even be an assumption of my motives – whether one would be inclined to agree with or chafe at those presumed motives. But my answer is in one sense simpler, and in another more complex, than might be assumed.
I would not have voted to approve the service, not because of the sexual orientation of the individual, but simply because it would require an unusual circumstance for me to vote to use the church building for a service for someone with no connection with the church. I would not say never, but rarely – and only with very good reason. This is both a practical and communal issue. Practically, funerals and weddings take a lot of manpower. I would prefer to respect the time demands upon the deacons of our church, and our other volunteers, and not embrace a service for mere commercial reasons. If, however, it is someone who is part of the church family, well then I think every reasonable effort ought to be made to honor the person and support the family.
Would sexual orientation have any effect on my decision? No, not really. At least not to do what the pastor in this situation reportedly did.
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