Why I would attend the wedding of a LGTBQ family member or friend.

ringsRecently, I read an article written by a well-known Southern Baptist thinker who stated the reasons he would not attend the same-sex wedding of a family member or friend.

As I read this, I recalled a conversation during a M15 side-session dealing with homosexuality and the church. In this session, a question was posed asking if the audience would attend the wedding of their gay or lesbian son or daughter. The one asking the question said they would not, while Dan Boone (the speaker for this session) and the majority of the audience (consisting of primarily pastors and leaders) said they would.

As an ordained minister, and someone who has been wrestling with these questions myself, I want to share a few thoughts as to why I would attend.

You versus Me

As Christians, somewhere along the line, we have come to this belief that if we disagree with someone, we have to show it through our refusal to spend time with them. For many, disagreement must result in exclusion. Disagreement means keeping someone at arm’s length. We might have coffee with them, but we must always make sure they know this isn’t a true friendship. There is a serious issue standing in the way of real community.

We see this happen politically (republicans and democrats, along with those who vote from them, refuse to talk to one another).

We see it theologically through our arguments and refusal to listen to those who think differently (oh, how many times I’ve heard people say Catholics aren’t Christians).

And we see it in this conversation dealing with LGBTQ equality and marriage.

This question is nearly always posed like this: “If we attend the wedding, aren’t we saying we affirm that union?”

However, I think there is a deeper question being asked.

This question being, “if I attend this wedding, what would people think of me?”

This past year I listened to the speech of a very well-known evangelical leader who represented a very well-known evangelical organization. This leader told the story of how he has a very good friend who is gay, and is married. This friend currently lived in a city where this leader would soon have to spend a few days. When this gay couple found out, as an act of hospitality they invited him to stay at their home. He accepted. Soon, the organization he represented asked him to cancel, saying their constituents wouldn’t understand and it would give the organization a bad name. An order he followed, refusing the hospitality of his friend, which (understandably) hurt his friend and placed a wedge between them.

This leader used this story as an example of times when Christians must do difficult things in the name of Jesus.

However, I’ll be honest. I don’t accept this.

What’s in a name?

We are Christians. Christ-followers. Little-Christs.

As Christ-followers, we are commanded to model our lives after Jesus.

This leads to the question: How did Jesus live?

Jesus enjoyed being with people. Especially those on the outside.

He spent much of his ministry eating, laughing, and loving people the church refused to love or acknowledge.

He ate with tax-collectors, prostitutes, and affirmed the place of women in society. (Lk 5:27-32)

He made a Samaritan (those who Jews saw as sub-human, half-breeds) the hero in his sermons. (Lk 10:25-37)

Consistently, Jesus refused to let the respectability of the church dictate how he loved.

This resulted in him being called a glutton and drunkard and the friend of sinners (Matt 11:19).

Why a wedding and dinner are the same

Many will say, “but dinner and weddings are very different things. I will eat with my lesbian or gay friend, but a wedding takes it to another level.”

Using a modern cultural perspective, this would be true.

However, in the time of Jesus, to accept the invitation for dinner, and to eat at a person’s home, was a statement that you approved of them. That you loved them. That you affirmed them.

Not only did Jesus accept these invitations, he often did so without requesting a change of life/opinion/action. He sometimes requested this, but not always. Over and over, Jesus ate dinner with outcasts, and only offered his presence. (Lk 7:36-50, Matt 9:9-31)

Change was never a qualification for belonging. Did change happen? Absolutely, but in its own time. At the pace and speed of the Spirit.

Ultimately, I would attend this wedding because I believe Jesus would attend. Love should compel us to attend.

My question is this:

Why wouldn’t we go to the wedding of a gay or lesbian family member or friend?

Why wouldn’t we show that we love them (even in disagreement)?

Most importantly, who cares what others think of us?

After all, if our actions receive the criticism of those within the church, we can rest in the knowledge that we’re in good company.

Thoughts? Would you attend the wedding of a LGBTQ family member or friend?

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16 thoughts on “Why I would attend the wedding of a LGTBQ family member or friend.

  1. My brother, I love you SO much for your insight….and your bravery.
    I, too, wrestle with this, and conversations like this help me. I just wish you would’ve expounded more on the “modern” implication of a wedding. People generally attend weddings because they wish the couple well as a union. How do you reconcile that?

  2. This really resonates with me and I feel like my mother in particular wanted me to understand love remaining in disagreement. I think something else christians are afraid of is that they will become so used to the sin around them that they will begin to assimilate and forget how to live like a Christian. I feel like every believer needs a strong support system, and you’ll notice Jesus was not constantly in the presence of sinners. Having people who are walking with God as well not only helps, but is necessary. I noticed a trend in myself that when I would hang out with people who all believed a certain way I would slowly start to think as they did. I think thats the thing I fear the most. However that ties into knowing what you believe and being strong enough to hold to the truth. But that’s exactly the point: no one is strong enough to be Jesus, and while we should all strive towards being christ like, we have to continue to rely on each other for support and encouragement. This was a great article, hopefully it goes viral 🙂

  3. Very well written, Michael! This is a fascinating and complicated topic, and one that I think deserves careful thinking, especially considering the long-term implications for future generations. Here is a question I would urge you to consider further:

    As a public figure (as all pastors are by definition), isn’t everywhere and everything we do, buy, or say an endorsement or indictment of what you believe? By definition, attending a wedding is showing support of the mirror of God’s design for His relationship between humans and God. Therefore, aren’t we communicating to those around us that we accept the marital union of two people of the same sexes as an acceptable image of Christ’s marriage to the church when we attend same-sex weddings?

    To use an extreme example, would you attending a strip club mean that you endorse objectifying women and you enjoy having illicit affairs? Of course not. But because of your status as a Christ-follower and a pastor, most people would draw conclusions from your actions unless you were able to have an explicit reason you could explain to everyone that might have contact with you. In the examples that you mention in scripture about Christ hanging out with sinners, there is no mention of him ever endorsing their sin. By definition, marriage is the celebration of a union. If we’re not celebrating the and supporting marriage when we attend weddings, we empty the reason that we attend of any significant meaning. And as a communicator and leader of a congregation, you can’t help but communicate this to your attendees.

    Of course, I’m speaking with the confines of being a Christ-follower, speaking to another Christ-follower. None of this applies to those outside the faith. But considering that we both believe the Bible, take it as the literal word of God, and attempt to follow Christ’s teachings, I believe that this is within my right to point out in love.

    Again, thank you for writing this insightful article! You have challenged me to clarify my thinking in this area!

    • Eric! Thank you for your kind words, and I’m so glad you took the time to engage this post. We are to always challenge each other, and I’m grateful you’re doing this here.

      I think I would begin by saying, yes as a pastor, what I do speaks volumes to others. What I approve, others will approve. What I believe, others will begin to believe.

      With this in mind, I want to say this:

      As a pastor, its my greatest charge, not to just defend/debate theology, but to introduce people to the love of God. Sadly, because our church has struggled to get past the theology in this issue, people within the LGBTQ community are not able to connect with God in a real way. I believe it’s my call to find a way to bridge this disconnect.

      I also think your analogy, while I hear the heart behind it, is different. One involves people caught in a spiral of abuse and manipulation (Strip club). The marriage involves two adults making consensual decision. We aren’t defending the voiceless and defending the weak. Really, we’re just speaking love to a friend. We do this sort of thing all the time. We attend weddings for those who lived together. We attend the weddings of those who have been divorced. Are they biblically perfect? Of course not, but we believe that God still moves and works. To say we refuse them community means who they are, and what they’ve done, is too eggregious for God. And I don’t believe anything we do can be too great for God’s redemptive work.

      Ultimately, if I summed this up into one sentence, I would say: I go because I want them to know that God still cares about them, loves them, and welcomes them with open arms.

      • This is why I love who you are- this should always be our heart!

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        That said, I still believe we can show love and acceptance to those in our community without making an endorsement (whether intentional or unintentional) of their lifestyle.

        I would agree with you as a pastor, your first charge is always to demonstrate love. I can think of few people who show it so beautifully than you do in your life! But I believe the great failing of our generation is the marginalize or minimize theology to the point of irrelevancy. What good is love without meaning or content?

        Not to stray too much from the original topic, but this is fundamental to the argument: if we strip terms like love, grace, or faith of meaning, we lose the power and virility of the what we’re trying to communicate.

        To address your points, both are excellent and valid, and I almost included rebuttals to them in my first response because they both seem so sound. Here are my thoughts on each point:

        1. In regard to the strip club analogy, you say that people are caught in a spiral of abuse and manipulation, and the point is not applicable because of this. But how can we possibly say it’s abusive and manipulative? By who’s definition can we define it? Aren’t we defining this based on a Christian bias? Can we honestly say apart from a Christian perspective that this is a perfectly acceptable way to make a living? I argue that we can only judge based on two systems: natural law and Christian morals.

        By natural law, stripping or prostitution is actually much more acceptable than homosexual relations, since there’s a well-established precedent in nature of males and females taking multiple partners throughout their lifetimes for reproductive gain, often forcibly or in a violent way. Since natural law offers no benefit to non-reproductive sex, there is little to no basis outside of abnormal conditions (lack of the opposite sex, etc) for a natural law argument in support of homosexuality. If we try to make the argument that there is no such thing as abnormality in nature, we are forced to include cannibalism, group rape, and infanticide as perfectly natural and permissible societal activities, since these often occur in nature, as well.

        Therefore, I argue that we are forced as Christians (and I can’t stress this enough: Christ-followers who believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God) are forced to make judgements not by a natural ethical law, but by the words of the Bible. And by definition, we make “judgements” based on this worldview. We can not avoid it. This is different than “judging”, since we are not making a judgment on the person for their lifestyle. It’s up to the other person how they live, and in what way. This is where you shine- you are such an amazing person at extending grace. We all should follow your example!

        2. Quickly, to your second point about attending a non-Christian’s heterosexual wedding: I will whole-heartedly celebrate even a shadow of Christ’s physical picture of Him and his bride the church, but I will never celebrate a perversion of it.

        Ultimately, you are absolutely correct in your core message of love and acceptance to all. This is something our generation does better than perhaps any other in the last 300 years. What I worry about is love without truth or content.

        We can not afford to love without being willing to speak the uncomfortable truths as kindly and gently as we whisper those more easy to swallow.

  4. I’m having one main thought about this: I attend weddings to celebrate and affirm the marriage, I believe I would be hypocritical if I attended a wedding to which you are referring.
    I don’t attend weddings just for the fact that I love the bride and groom.
    I’m an old person, and it makes me very sad to think that non traditional marriages will gradually become completely accepted by society.
    In my mind I would be approving, and it would weaken my Christian witness but I don’t think that’s the same as worrying what others think of me.
    I love you Michael, I’m happy you’re thinking deeply about such a serious matter.
    I know the Holy Spirit and God’s Word will give us wisdom and guidance to handle whatever life brings our way.

  5. For the people who are saying that they wouldn’t attend an LGBTQ wedding because it would be an endorsement of that marriage, I wonder if they would also refuse to attend the wedding of a straight couple that had been sexually active before marriage. And if they would attend that straight wedding, how do they reconcile the seeming double-standard, since both practices are deemed sinful?

    • Randy, I would answer that like this… Marrying into a homosexual relationship is choosing the path of sin as your commitment. While being sexually active outside of marriage is wrong, wouldn’t attending the wedding be sporting their commitment to each other. To put it bluntly, they won’t be having sex outside of marriage if they’re married. That doesn’t fix the fact that they sinned outside of marriage but the commitment to each other in marriage is not a sin so attending that wedding is not supporting sin but reconciliation. Attending a LGBT wedding would be showing support of choosing to life the path of sin.

  6. The question is would I attend the wedding if it was my son/daughter? Yes. I would be deeply broken and my children would be very aware of that implication, but my love for him/her could not keep me away. If it was someone else I would have to take it case by case on whether I would attend or not. Those wouldn’t be as easy to make a call on and I don’t know if they would want a heavy hearted attender at their wedding.

    • Kim, I appreciate hearing your heart and respect your ability to wrestle with this complicated issue. It’s difficult, and will only continue to get more so. May God continue to lead His church.

  7. Thank you for writing this.
    Your views on this have always been what I’ve held to, and I definitely agree that I think it ends up being a matter of us thinking what others would think of us. However, like you, I always go back to the examples that Jesus set for us, and I think you hit it spot on. This is great.

  8. I just posted this blog on my facebook (i’m a little late to the game) with the following story: In February of 2014, I had the great honor to stand beside my long time friend as she said her marriage vows. When she asked me in December of 2012, I had a choice to make. The sad truth, as I am ashamed to admit, is that my internal hesitation had nothing to do with my love for her or the great honor to stand with her (I was humbled to be asked), but it was indeed: what will others say? specifically: what will my church say? I am so blessed by her friendship and the way that both Megan W and Lindsay P. have challenged me and loved my family.
    It was an even greater honor to listen to Ruby say YES when they presented her with a flower girl dress the following Christmas. i’ve lost a few friends…but i’ve gained so much more!

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