Standing on the Side of Love: Coming Out Sunday, Rev. Arthur G. Severance

Start Date

 The issue of same gender marriage is one of the issues that are being  
addressed today. Let me share some verses from the Bible to help clear  
things up.

"A. Marriage  shall consist of a union between one man and one or more  
women. (Gen. 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

"B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in
addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II
Chron. 11:21)

C. Leviticus 20-21 NIV:"If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an  
act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless."

D. Deuteronomy 25:5:"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die,  
and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a  
stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to  
him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her."

   My colleague, J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, when talking of scriptural  
contexts about homosexuality said: ?Continuing the why one portion of  
scripture is emphasized over the other, I would question why a  
Leviticus verse about man sleeping with man as with woman has been so  
harped upon by those enjoying their breakfast
bacon and 20% nylon shirts, both of which are equally prohibited.  I  
would question whether prior attitudes influence Scripture  
interpretation more than Scripture influences our thought.?

   ?The Bible says...? depends on which Bible, who?s reading it, and how  
they interpret it; therefore any argument which starts with that  
phrase is suspect and means that the arguer is claiming God?s  
authority when one can only claim one?s own opinion about what God  
says, wants, or does.
It is not about interpreting scripture; it is about denying a cultural  
change that has always had to remain hidden, though all of us knew it  
was there. The question in Protestant denominations as well as in  
priesthood and catholic sisterhood is not whether or not gay clergy  
and religious should be ordained, but whether they can be open about  
it after their ordination while hiding their true love orientation;  
indeed, perhaps by denying their gender. Their is no opposite sex, and  
there are more than two genders, and there has been since biblical  
times! Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality since by  
definition we know both take place in nature!
   Have you ever wondered that in Nazi Germany not only Jews were  
labeled and killed , but also homosexuals. Perhaps we might be able to  
see that people are Jewish the same way people are gay! Born that way!

   We celebrate National Coming Out Day this Sunday though it is  
officially next Saturday, October 11. It was  started  by Dr. Robert  
Eichberg and Jean O'Leary in 1988, in celebration of the Second  
National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in which half  
a million people marched on Washington, DC, United States, for gay and  
lesbian equality. National Coming Out Day events are aimed at raising  
awareness of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community  
among the general populace in an effort to give a familiar face to the  
LGBT rights movement.

   A few years ago, I  received a thick 149 page booklet from Amnesty  
International titled ?Stonewalled: Police abuse and misconduct against  
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the US.?  It was  
based on a gay bar in NYC  being raided by Police, but the people did  
not go quietly since they were being busted, basically, for being Gay,  
lesbian, Bisexual, or transgender. This is the 40th anniversary of a  
series of clashes that began on June 27, 1969, after New York City  
police raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.  
It s considered the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.
   The pamphlet  profiled the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York,  
and  SAN ANTONIO,  asking all police departments to make a signed  
pledge to end the often sexual or physical abuse and terrible  
misconduct against members of the GLBT community. The executive  
Director of Amnesty USA is Rev. Dr. Bill Schulz, former president of  
the UUA. Amnesty international deals with the horrific dictatorship  
regimes in Africa, Asia, and other places in the world, trying to stop  
torture, and the revoking of human rights. That we need that in this  
country, supposedly free with equal rights for all to  life, liberty  
and the pursuit of happiness. Homosexuality is as natural as  
heterosexuality.

   Nobel prize winner, South African Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu:
 "We struggled against apartheid because we were being blamed and  
made to suffer for something we could do nothing about. It is the same  
with homosexuality. The orientation is a given, not a matter of  
choice. It would be crazy for someone to choose to be gay, given the  
homophobia that is present."
    ?The Bible? another Anglican  writes,  ?will always be definitive  
for the Church?s faith, but in the Anglican tradition Holy Scripture  
is open to what scholars call "hermeneutical" treatment. Hermeneutics  
means "informed and reasoned interpretation". In other words, the  
Bible is not self-authenticating. It needs to be seen in all the light  
that every new era of history and scholarship can provide.?

   There is a ?National Equality March? today we in Washington with one  
single demand: ?equal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and  
transgender people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50  
states. This march is a first step to build a grassroots network in  
all 435 Congressional Districts to make this demand a reality.? That?s  
also part of the ?Standing on the Side of Love? campaign of the UUA.

   Canada, that hotbed of radicalism has legalized same sex marriage,  
two adults who love each other and wish to make a lifelong commitment,  
not like Britany Spears 55 hour marriage! The main church in Canada  
goes along with that: ?The United Church of Canada proclaims the Good  
News of Jesus Christ that every person is loved by God. There is no  
condemnation because one is gay or lesbian... The United Church of  
Canada believes that gay and lesbian people are completely loved and  
accepted by God....(We) assert the authority of Scripture. We know  
that there are some things that the Bible does NOT say. We are far  
more concerned with those things the Bible DOES teach us about God and  
ourselves. We are free to be ourselves and God will guide us in that.  
We are committed as Christians, to live lives which follow the  
teachings and examples of Jesus.?

    As far back as 1970, Our denomination passed a resolution calling  
for an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians,  declaring  
that consensual adult sexual behavior is nobody else?s business, and  
as far back as 1984, recognized gay and lesbian services of union. It  
wasn?t until 1973  that the American Psychiatric Association voted to  
drop homosexuality from its registry of mental illness.

    I have performed probably 2 or 3 dozen sacred unions, and they are  
wonderful experiences, watching the ?love that could not say its name?  
blossom in public, being religiously affirming  for a kind of love  
that is obviously as old as biblical times. In our churches that love  
can now proudly say its name and we affirm it.

      I remember one time in particular- Because I had  co-officiated in  
the morning at a very fancy  memorial service for member of the SAn  
Antonio Church,  held in the prestigious  Trinity University chapel,  
her husband being a professor there, but  in the afternoon I performed  
a wedding which is not legal but was deeply religious, uniting in  
committed relationship, two wonderful, loving,  and very happy women  
in Holy Union at a friends house high on a hill just outside San  
Antonio. There was, like usual, a small gathering. Family members  
either refused or were too far away to attend, so it was mostly dear  
friends and coworkers who came of all kinds of sexual orientation.  
Everyone loved the service and complimented me, and I was so proud  
that our denomination, that this church supports and welcomes folks  
with different sexual orientations.

   Perhaps if we could all go through the process with me of talking to  
a gay or lesbian couple who wish to have their loving relationship  
sacralized by having me perform a sacred union -- a marriage in all  
but the legality -- and see and hear the
joy expressed by all present. It is love that we are talking about  
here, love that longs to be expressed openly, shared with the world.  
If we are heterosexual, let us imagine our first love and further  
imagine that we could not tell anyone, nor could we openly express our  
affection by even hand-holding or both of us might lose our jobs,  
family, friends, indeed even our lives!  It seems to me  that if we  
are to live out our religion and speak in our principles of ?the  
inherent worth and dignity of every person,? and ?justice, equity and  
compassion in human relations,? and uphold our cherished tradition of  
freedom of belief that we must ask ourselves how that related to the  
issue at hand.

Five states, one of them  last week, have legalized same-sex marriage.  
Here's their status: MAINE, VERMONT, CONNECTICUT,  MASSACHUSETTS, and  
IOWA now permit same-gender marriage and New Hampshire will as well,  
beginning Jan., 2010!  On January 1, 2008, civil unions became legal  
in the state. Now we know that like, California, they could rescind,  
but almost all of New England, home of the Puritans, now permit  
same-gender marriage

Fred Small-First Parish in Cambridge (MA), September 13, 2009 wrote in  
his sermon on Standing on the side of Love:
?When Unitarian Lydia Maria Child defied the prohibition of her time  
against women speaking in public and demanded freedom for enslaved  
African-Americans and the vote for women, when she protested the Trail  
of Tears, the brutal removal of the Cherokee, she was standing on the  
side of love.
   When Unitarian Universalist minister Jim Reeb heeded the call of  
Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma, AL, and was bludgeoned to death by  
racists, he was standing on the side of love.
   When at the height of the debate over same-sex marriage in
Massachusetts this congregation voted to hang a banner over the church  
door proclaiming to every passerby ?Support Marriage Equality. We do.?  
we were standing on the side of love.
   By the way, did you hear that Massachusetts now has the lowest  
divorce rate in the country? In 2004, when same-sex marriage became  
legal here, the divorce rate was 2.2 per thousand. Since then it?s  
gone down to 2.0 per thousand?the lowest levels since before World War  
Two.?
 Someone wrote (Rachel Maddow says? ?It turns out gay marriage is a  
Defense of Marriage Act.? Who knew?".?

   Interestingly homosexual love is sometimes called ?the Love that  
dares not speak its name.?  What is unnatural is to force people to go  
against their nature when they are not hurting anyone, indeed when  
they are actually loving someone. What is unnatural is the closet that  
we have kept millions of people in over the ages. Take away  
homosexuality and we lose the music of Tchaikovsky or Leonard  
Bernstein, or even Elton John, the art of Michelangelo, the poetry of  
Milton, May Sarton, Adrian Rich, or Emily Dickenson, the wisdom of  
Aristotle. It is of course part of the secret lives of many who we  
will never know, and perhaps as GLBT folk feel more and more  
comfortable about coming out, we can begin to see how many people we  
are talking  about, but millions at the least!
   It isn?t easy for some of us to be truly welcoming, we are all  at  
various places in our understanding and even perhaps our acceptance.

   My colleague and friend, Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie is Senior Minister  
at the historic Arlington Street Church in Boston, of all places, who  
called her a few years ago as the first woman minister, to say nothing  
about the first lesbian, in the close to 300 year history of the  
church. She is dynamic and charismatic preacher.
   ?I have been extraordinarily lucky,? she writes:? In living my life  
as an openly lesbian woman, I have gained far more -- infinitely more  
-- than I have lost. One factor tips the balance. I was raised as a  
Unitarian Universalist. I was raised with Sunday School lessons that  
taught the beauty of difference, in a faith which nurtures  
self-respect, dignity and courage. Most of all, I knew and continue to  
be affirmed in the truth that no matter what I lost or will lose in  
coming out, I won?t lose my church. I know I am loved not in spite of  
who or what I am, but because of who and what I am. And that has made  
all the difference.?

   Another lesbian colleague, Sue Phillips Keene won the  2005 Skinner  
Sermon Award for her sermon, ?On Being an "Issue."  She spoke of her  
experience when Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage in 2004:   
?As I eagerly watched the national news the first day gay marriages  
were legalized in Massachusetts, I saw footage of Kim Crawford  
Harvie,the minister of the Arlington Street Church, marry two men who  
were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, even as she was married to her partner  
earlier that morning. And I saw the lead plaintiffs in that historic
case, Julie and Hillary Goodridge, as they were, at long last, legally  
married by UUA President Bill Sinkford at 25 Beacon Street. Just  
outside the windows of that very room, the banner still hung, "Civil  
Marriage is a Civil Right!," at last a statement of truth rather than  
a dream.
   How can I describe to you what I felt seeing those images? As I sat  
with my beloved late that night, weeping with joy. We have become so  
accustomed to losing political battles, to being left out. There have  
been so few victories to celebrate. This history makes the celebration  
even sweeter, especially because support for gay marriage in  
Massachusetts came from such diverse places, from organized labor, to  
legislators from working class communities, to mainstream religious  
groups. Watching all those beautiful, happy people walking up  
courthouse steps hand in hand brought out all the grief of previous  
losses, and all the relief of this victory in one jumbled torrent."

   I believe in civil rights for everyone and I believe that marriage is  
a civil, not a religious right, though every religion has the right to  
decide on its rituals, in this country, marriage is a civil and  
secularly legal affair. Just as interracial marriage was once illegal,  
and just as divorce was once such a scandal that you certainly  
couldn?t talk about it at church, and now chances are you know at  
least one minister who?s divorced!
Think about the difference just in the cultural acceptance of smoking  
over the last 10 years!  We can be part of the transformation of  
prejudice into  love being the answer and at the heart of religion.  
That   large, easy to see, banner that said, ?MArriage is a civil  
right ?hung at 25 BEacon St. which is next door to the MA state house!  
I?d like to think that perhaps it might have helped a little because  
MA DID finally legalize same-sex marriage.

   Standing on the Side of Love website has this petition which I signed :

?I stand on the side of love in support of full equality for people of  
all gender identities and sexual orientations.

I believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people deserve  
equal treatment in all matters of law, including the rights to marry,  
to adopt children and to serve openly in our country?s armed forces.  
Furthermore, our nation?s laws should protect everyone who faces  
violence, intimidation, and discrimination because of their identities.

In signing this petition, I am affirming the full humanity of all  
people. I am harnessing love?s power to stop oppression. I am honoring  
the spark of the divine in each and every person. I am pledging to  
uphold love as a guiding principle in my treatment of others.

I call on my lawmakers to do the same by providing full and equal  
protection under the law for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender  
people.?

   This is religious work, this standing on the side of love. It is not  
a discussion about religion or love, it as the acting out of religion,  
what  19th century Unitarianism called ?salvation by character,? what  
I might call ?salvation by social justice and the powerful force of  
people transformed and inspired by the final knowledge that it is how  
we love that truly matters.  Let us not just  stand on the side of  
love, but move forward towards  transforming the world into a more  
loving place with civil rights for all.

Amen, Peace, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum(may Peace be  
upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A  
Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and let me add one  
more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to  
ministry. ?Vaya con Dios? is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is  
?Go with God,? So I adapted it to say ?Vaya Con Su Dios, ?Go with your  
idea or interpretation of God.?

Peace,Love, Shalom,Salaam, Blessed Be,Namaste, Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios

Event type
Worship Service