I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, and I don’t think I am going to get a better time than now.
For those who don’t know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just updated their Handbook for church leaders with statements that classify living in a same-sex marriage as apostasy, and that denies the children of those relationships membership within the church.
Here is an excerpt of the policy; let’s break it down.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
- The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
- The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
The sad fact here is that children are being denied membership in the church because they are the children of same-sex couples. How is this in any way a good thing? The whole point of Christ’s ministry here on Earth was to welcome ALL PEOPLE to follow Him. He specifically points out the importance of children in Matthew 18:
“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of thee little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
I don’t see this as revelatory, Christlike, or redeemable. All this serves to do is divide and sever connections between people, not bring more people unto Christ. Though it claims to be well-intentioned, I think it is an incredibly confused policy.
Let’s look at point 1. The child (from age 8-18) would have to disavow the practice of same-gender relationships, essentially stating that they deny their parents marriage–that it, in principle, is wrong and sinful. Why are these children specifically asked this question when no other person who joins the Church is? This is about the child’s decision to join the Church, nothing about their parents should affect this. Nothing else should matter.
I did not have to state that I disavow same-gender relationships when I joined the Church. In fact leaders of the Church have stated that there are members on both sides of the issue of same sex marriage, and those who support it, like me, are not in jeopardy of loosing their membership. Why is a special qualification made for these children? To make the decision harder? If this policy is being applied to them, then it should be applied to all individuals who are seeking to be baptised. It should either be a requirement to join the church for everyone, or not at all.
In addition, there are children of inactive or non-member parents, who do not live inline with the Church’s beliefs–where physical, emotional or drug abuse could be happening at home (not to mention homes of rapists or murderers). These children are allowed to attend church. They are allowed to be baptised and live at home with their parents. They aren’t made to disavow their parents life decisions. If this were the case, and all individuals were treated equally, then my wife would not have been allowed to join the Church.
This is all to protect families, according to the Church leaders, but
1. Why do these families in particular need to be protected? What is so dangerous about same-sex relationships?
2. Why don’t other families warrant the same kind of “protection”? Aren’t there any number of other situations where a child choosing to join a particular church could “endanger” familial relationships? Maybe the problem is with poising Christianity and homosexuality against each other as enemies that need to be protected from one another.
Homophobia should have no place in the Christian mind. We need to get over it. Some men like men. Some women like women. They are all Children of God. They can still be good parents (better in many cases). Things would be so much simpler if Christians would stop obsessing over sex!
It is just unbelievable to me that people would be put through this if they wanted to join the Church. Why don’t our leaders see a problem with this kind of exclusive attitude?
For one to receive revelation one needs to have an open heart and mind towards the subject and I think that this is one of those issues that people refuse to be open about. Some refuse to see those who have a different orientation or gender identity as people and reject any attempt to understand their experience and perspective. Christ lived every day of his life with outcasts, “sinners” and eunuchs (Read Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson’s book Outing the Bible comparing eunuchs in the Bible to LGBT individuals today). He knew heir experiences and knew them as individuals and cared for them as such. This is what we need more of not less of. We need soft hearts, not hard ones.
Christ’s greatest strength–His greatest triumph–is turning weakness into strength. Turning broken hearts into whole hearts. Turning to outcasts and welcoming them in. He would never turn away a child, or their parents, regardless of whether they were seen as sinners, strangers, outcasts or enemies. He opened the doors of Heaven to everyone. Without qualification. Policies like this harden people’s hearts. It divides. It turns away. It breaks peoples hearts, it doesn’t heal them.