Since we have not yet arrived [in Wisconsin Annual Conference] at a corporate agreement of what it means to be a Reconciling Conference -- each of our attempts to faithfully reflect what it means in our lives is important. One of the ways this comes through my sensibility is a reflection on covenant ceremonies.
As I looked at the "Statement of Commitment", it seemed consistent with my understanding that each couple is unique in their situation and that the same care needs to go into each relationship. Preparation for "marriage" between any two heterosexual individuals is going to vary according to their pasts, present circumstance and expectations for the future. While there will be many similarities between couples, it is the uniqueness of their call to relationship that needs the most lifting up -- lest cultural mores become idolatrous in their life and blind them to how they might, together, help bring "thy kingdom come, on earth, as it is in heaven" in a way not available to them if left as individuals.
Another way of talking about this is through the language of vocation. Do folks have a vocation to a covenantal relationship? This perspective can be extended to any couple, homosexual, heterosexual, asexual....
This leads me to be hesitant to automatically extend a "celebration" to any couple, regardless of sexual orientation, or to automatically refuse to extend a "celebration". (Relatedly, we do need to develop rituals to "celebrate" those called to a covenant/vocation of singleness, an honorable estate.) Whether coupled, in whatever configuration, or single -- all are called to chastity, faithfulness in their covenants.
We are at our worst when we arbitrate in extreme fashions to claim a truer covenant for one class of folks, based on their genital experiences, and not to another. Our current "rules" are simply not broad enough for the pastoral realities that arise.
We are at our best when we look beyond the obvious levels of surface observations (the basis for prejudice and judgmentalism) to the deeper questions of life. Among these deeper questions is that of covenant.
As one who believes that the past is valuable (but not constrictive), that the future with a living God continues to be open beyond our being able to think about it, and that the present is the crucible in which the dross is consumed -- the heat involved in the current Reconciling Conference conversations is not to be unexpected nor dreaded.
My sense is that this time of friction has reached a point where continued debate brings diminished returns. I think we know what the issues are and we are no longer able to "evangelize" those who think differently. While a great deal of respect still needs to be offered those with whom we differ, it is time to move away from balanced presentations to constructively clarify the core values which stand behind our different perceptions. I don't expect many more folks to sign the Commitment -- there are many ways to be reconciling. I do expect us to intentionally appreciate the many different way in which our hearts and hands are joined while our thoughts and gifts vary.
I believe that loving covenants are more important than sexual style within said covenants. This has been a gift to me from wrestling with the broader implications of welcoming all people from a stance of participating in a Reconciling Conference.
[excerpted by CORNET from another web document written by Wesley White, with his permission]
Wisconsin Annual Conference
March 21, 1998