by Jeremy Neff
Neff is an attorney with Ennis Britton Co., L.P.A. and a member of First Lutheran Church.
Never mix religion and politics.
This dictate was of little use to Pastor Brian Ferguson of the First Lutheran Church in Over the Rhine when he received a request to officiate a same sex marriage.
Declining to give an immediate answer, Pastor Brian instead sent a letter to the FLC community informing them of the request and asking them to “engage in a faithful dialogue around this significant matter.” Two congregational meetings were scheduled. Pastor Brian encouraged people to contact him personally to ask questions and give input.
The services leading up to the meetings set the stage for a thoughtful and respectful conversation. Pastor Brian asked the congregation to think about what wisdom is, and where it comes from. His sermons disarmed all comers. Convictions were questioned; thoughtful reflection followed.
Despite this careful preparation, many were anxious about what would happen on a recent Sunday during the first congregational meeting. Would it be an intelligent discussion, or a noisy pep rally? In Pastor Brian’s words, “would they share a wholesome meal, or fast food?”
Where others have resorted to harsh words and threats, the FLC community instead spoke with deliberation and respect. Nobody was called a bigot, and not a soul was condemned to eternal damnation. When the discussion concluded people shared handshakes and hugs.
What lesson can we take from this? The old saw about mixing religion and politics was trumped by another aphorism. Pastor Brian’s thoughtful guidance ensured that the FLC congregation had the time, tools, and inclination to move forward without divisive rancor. He began with the end – civil dialogue – in mind.