I’ve recently blogged about the “nontroversy” (non-controversy) of the couple in Idaho who own the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel and are claiming religious persecution. Donald and Lynn Knapp fear the government is going to put them in jail and fine them because they won’t officiate same gender weddings at the Hitching Post.

It’s a nontroversy because it won’t happen. The government has zero compelling reason to force clergy to officiate against their will in marriages. The government has never done so.

Additionally, the city of Coeur d’Alene (where the Hitching Post is) has asked them to drop their suit because two weeks ago, the Hitching Post took steps to become a nonprofit religious corporation, which would exempt them from any requirement to conduct a fair and equitable business, where all people receive the same treatment.

I completely and totally support the idea that clergy should never have to officiate at any wedding (gay, straight or whatever) if they don’t want to sign their name on a license for that particular marriage. I’ve said no to couples before who have asked me to marry them. If the Knapps don’t want to officiate at same gender weddings, they shouldn’t have to.

The Knapps, of course, were running a for profit business, (until they just decided to be a corporation with deeply held religious beliefs). And businesses have to apply the same rules to everyone.

So even if the Knapps, as ministers, didn’t want to officiate at all weddings, as business owners, it would be incumbent on them to make arrangements for other clergy to officiate at any theoretical same gender weddings.

Rather than do that, of course, they are claiming religious persecution and claiming their wedding mill business has closely held religious beliefs. They say they are afraid of going to jail for their beliefs.

I want to live in mutual forbearance with Christians who don’t see this issue the same way I do. Truly, I do. But, for them, this issue is not about mutual forbearance. It is a binary view of the world where you either agree with them and are faithful, or you disagree with them and clearly hate Jesus. Mutual forbearance is hard to live into when you believe there is only one answer and the “other” people don’t have it.

Here’s a statement from the Hitching Post’s newly added Wedding Policy:

“The Christian religion requires that all its adherents, and especially its ministers, apply their religious precepts and doctrines to all facets of their lives, including their work and the operation of their businesses. For this reason, the Hitching Post reserves the right to refuse a request for services that would require the entity to engage in conduct that conflicts with its owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs and the ministerial vows taken by the owners.”

Can you feel the fear in that statement?

I see this in my denomination as well, which has recently allowed clergy to officiate at same gender marriages in jurisdictions where it is legal. It has not required it. It will never require it.

Yet people who are opposed to same gender marriage are convinced they will be punished for not officiating at these marriages. And so they leave the denomination over fear there is not room for them anymore. Or they leave because they don’t want to be yoked to unbelievers, which is how some of them see it.

I strongly believe we, as followers of Jesus, as members of the Body of Christ, are called to UNITY in the midst of our differences. We are not called to uniformity. I am convinced that the God who called us on this journey is well aware of our differences, and in fact, created us exactly that way.

I serve on the Board of the Covenant Network, which is an organization of Presbyterians who have been seeking equality in the church while also promoting the unity of the church. We recently shared a Statement about this unity and forbearance. Here’s a portion of it:

The proposed Amendment 14-F specifically includes language protecting freedom of conscience for teaching elders and congregations who choose not to participate in or host same-sex marriages. We wholeheartedly support those important protections, which are in keeping with our Presbyterian principles. Indeed, we believe the amendment was greatly strengthened by their addition.

We have heard there is substantial concern among conservative and evangelical teaching elders and congregations that, in presbyteries where their views about marriage are in the minority, dissenting ministers would not be permitted to serve or dissenting congregations would be prevented from calling the pastors they want. As a board and as individual presbyters, we would oppose efforts to exclude persons who are qualified and called for service on the basis of their views about marriage, and we would urge other Presbyterians to join us in this commitment.

I’m glad to serve a Board that is willing to make a statement like this. I’m proud to be part of a denomination with a history of diversity of thought and belief.

I’m worried our society is making forbearance, unity, and diversity into bad words. (If you don’t believe me, read the comments on the Covenant Network statement page). How can we live together when we see the world so differently? How can we leave space for such difference? How can we trust that the God we worship and serve is actually sovereign and in charge and is not threatened by our doctrines?

For my part, I will continue to leave room in my denomination and in my community for people to interpret marriage equality differently. (Unless you are running a for profit business, in which case people are treated fairly and equally). I will continue to pray for people who are living in fear about this issue. I will continue to trust we are all safely in God’s hand and that we will make it through this season of fear.

5 thoughts on “Mutual Forbearance in an Age of Fear

  1. Marci, I’m fascinated by their statement about ministers having to adhere to certain rules according to the vows they have made. Is there information available about their ordination standing?


  2. Hear hear! We must leave room for others or there will not be room for me.
    Thank you for keeping diverdity and unity in the conversation.


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