The gay marriage controversy at St. Paul's

      Editor: Dave Uphoff
A controversy exists at a local church here in Minonk over policies and philosophies adopted by the national synod to which the church belongs. Last week members of St. Paul's United Church of Christ voted on a measure to clarify the local church's position on marriage between gay couples. The United Church of Christ is one of the few churches that has gone on record supporting gay marriages within the church.

St. Paul members voted 97 to 37 supporting the church's position on accepting gay marriages. The vote was the latest and perhaps the last effort of some members of the congregation to have the church rebuke the concept of gay marriage. The vote has created a split within the church and its outcome will probably result in the loss of some members.

St. Paul's joined the United Church of Christ in 1960 having previously been known as St. Paul's Evangelical and Reformed Church. Over the years the United Church of Christ has been more liberal in its philosophy than most other churches. Its liberal policies have resulted in the loss of some of its member churches over the years including one in Gridley and one in Metamora.

The schism within St. Paul's church is unfortunate but probably predictible. The origins of the church are based on rural midwest fundamentals that go back to the 1800's. The church was organized initially to administer to the large German population in Minonk, most of whom were farmers. The bible was the foundation of their religion and was literally interpreted.

Since joining the United Church of Christ in 1960, the church is tied to an organization whose philosophy includes adopting new stances on moral issues facing our nation. Obviously, these new stances do not always coiincide with the views of many of its members. What plays well in San Francisco will not always play well in Minonk.

I do not want to pass judgment on who is right or wrong in this issue. Matters of religion is a very emotionally charged issue. It comes down to a person's interpretation of the Bible which can be a big variable. The Muslim's interpretation of the Koran varies greatly from our interpretation of the Bible. And even within the Christian world the interpretation of the Bible is different. So who is right? The answer is no one is and everyone is. It is a personal conviction that you must live by.

Homosexuality has been practiced since time began and has been accepted by some cultures and rebuked by others. It will not disappear. However, I feel that gay marriages is not a good thing for our culture as it distorts the concept of family. The family unit of male and female with offspring is the time honored union that is the glue that holds our culture together. Any abberation of that union can only weaken our culture. While I accept the desire for gays to live together, to confer marital rights the same as heterosexual couples is too much of a change. If it is a good thing, it would have been adopted thousands of years ago when humans were forming their cultures.

It is unfortunate that a local church has to risk losing its members over an issue that is provoked by a national organization to which it belongs. I do not know how or why St. Paul's became affiliated with the United Church of Christ 46 years ago. Nor do I know if there was a match between their philosophies at that time. It is apparent that the philosophies of the national synod have changed more than the local churches.

To those who are contemplating leaving the church over this issue, consider the rich heritage of St. Paul's which once had the biggest congregation in Minonk. Consider the contribution of your parents and grandparents to the church. Would they leave the church over such an issue or would they seek other methods to resolve the issue? Is the survival of a church that shaped your Christian values, united you in holy matrimony, baptized your children and paid final respects to your loved ones more important than rebelling against the symbolic doctrine of a national organization that really has little influence on your daily lives other than the dues you pay to them each year? Is the gay marriage controversy the real problem facing the church?

I hope the issue can be resolved without any significant loss of members. The only question I really wonder about is if the 97-37 vote in favor of gay marriage at St. Paul's reflects the real feelings not only of St. Paul's but of the entire community.

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March 27, 2006