Discerning Holy Relationships: A process to discern same gender marriages at Hope Church

Framing the Conversation

We are a Room for All church that has already embraced full participation of LGBTQ people in the life of the church. The current process is designed by the elders to answer a specific question: “Should we as a congregation agree to affirm same gender marriages and permit our church resources and pastors to participate in same gender marriages?”

These sessions and discussions are designed to encourage practical multilayered conversations amongst stakeholders and key people within our church and classis that will help the elders discern the answer to the above question. Information about what is happening within the RCA, within our classis, and implications about choosing to do same gender marriages will be considered.

In preparation, click here for a very helpful list of resources. Also, click here to read a helpful Christian Century Article Cover Story.

Sessions
Four Wednesday evening sessions are planned.

Part 1: Opening the Conversation — Wednesday, April 22

  • David Blauw introduces and contextualizes what we are doing .
  • Jill & Gordon lead worship
  • Ann McKnight introduce our process focusing on a Restorative Circles approach
  • Marriages in the Bible –Tom Ludwig — Professor of Psychology with a Masters degree in divinity will give a short 8 minute presentation based on the article he’s written.
  • Theological perspectives on marriage — Jim Brownson
  • Small-group discussion on our views of marriage and holy relationships prompted by questions designed to help people understand their feelings as well as thoughts. Facilitated by Ann McKnight.

Part 2: Marriages, Yesterday and Today — Wednesday, April 29

  • Worship
  • Legal and Historical Aspects of Marriage. Jim Piers Professor of Sociology
  • Panel of folks within same gender marriages. Moderator Cindi Veldheer
  • Small group discussions on our thoughts and reactions

Part 3: The RCA nationally and locally — Wednesday, May 13

  • Worship
  • Presentation on the current situation of positions and actions within the RCA nationally, regionally and locally. Marilyn Paarlberg executive director of Room for All.
  • Comparison with other denominations within our Formula of Agreement
  • Small group discussions on our thoughts and reactions

Part 4: Where We Stand — Wednesday, May 20

  • Worship
  • Discussion introduced by Jane Schuyler to clarify people think, feel, and know. A few elders will stand and say “Here is where I am coming from and where I am now.”
  • Small group discussions using the questions “What does your head say? What does your heart say? What does your gut feel? What do you want the Elders to know about what you are thinking and feeling right now pertaining to this decision about same gender marriages at Hope Church?
  • Closing emphasis on this not being just an academic matter, but rather, we the Elders need to decide in the best way possible.

The outline for each session will be:
6:45 PM Fellowship
7:00 PM Worship — centering
7:15 PM Resources — information sharing/presentations
7:45 PM Small group discussions, storytelling, sharing
8:15 PM Closing

Small-group portions of the discussions will be facilitated by prepared consistory members whose job it will be to encourage full participation using the principles of restorative circles.   Speakers will be asked to consider the question “What is most important to me as I share what I want to share?”   Those who are listening will be asked to focus on the same question: “What am I hearing that matters most to the person speaking right now?”   Groups will be asked to identify two to three themes from their conversation each night to pass along to the Board of Elders.  Elder facilitation members will listen carefully and record observations for later conversation.