Sexuality and Marriage

Vineyard Canada, Nov 11, 2020, 2:57 AM
Vineyard Canada Global Moderator

Do Vineyard Canada pastors officiate same sex marriage ceremonies?

No, we do not allow Vineyard pastors to marry same sex couples.

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Vineyard Canada remains committed to an understanding of Christian marriage as an exclusive, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman, consistent with the traditional understanding of the historical Church. Our Christian ethic of sexuality holds to marriage as necessarily monogamous and heterosexual. Additionally, we value the sacramental nature of marriage, as well as the sacredness of the sexual activity within marriage.

We acknowledge that same sex marriage is accepted in our culture and subsequently is legal in our country. Although we do not license pastors to officiate same sex marriage, we respect the right of individuals to be married in a "fully affirming community" or by civic authorities.

Are queer people released to pastor in Vineyard churches?

Individuals with same-sex attraction who are gifted for pastoral leadership are blessed to do so, as long as they are living celibate lives or have chosen a heterosexual marriage. Further, such a person's orientation should not disqualify them from any participation in the life of their local church community, including pastoral ministry.

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There has been ignorance and unnecessary ostracization in relation to people who identify as belonging to a sexual minority. While there are many different categories it is important to state that we don't believe a non-heterosexual orientation is sin. There are those who will carry this orientation for their entire lives – we see this as part of the brokenness in the world – and this should not disqualify them from full participation in the life of the community. Attraction or orientation is not living in contrast with the long arc of redemption God is working in the world.

It is because of this conviction about how we are to live surrendered and toward the coming redemption of all things that we believe a celibate life is the biblical invitation for someone who does not feel they could enter into a heterosexual marriage. While we don't doubt this call to celibacy may be tremendously difficult, we actually believe there is fruit with this type of surrender that exceeds the losing of one's life. The historical Church has valued celibacy in ways our hyper sexualized culture no longer understands. People who choose this path of obedience to Jesus should not be marginalized in any way, even if they identify as a queer person for the rest of their lives.

It is also important to note that many queer Christians who feel called to a life of celibacy or heterosexual marriage out of obedience to Jesus, have not found genuine welcome in the conservative Church, nor in the affirming Church. To the one group they are considered sinful because their orientation has not changed, and to the other they are thought to be brainwashed because they are not living into their "true" identity. We feel we must especially make room for these brothers and sisters to not continue to be marginalized within our churches.

What is your perspective toward those with a different theology regarding minority sexuality?

One of our longstanding catch phrases in the Vineyard is "love the whole church." The Church has always had a wide array of liturgical expressions, doctrinal stances and practice. Vineyard Canada does not feel the need to "police" the Church, or society, in any way. We hold a posture of open handedness, realizing that we do not have all the answers nor are we in a competition to be "the best" expression of Christianity out there.  We recognize that there are expressions of our faith who embrace same sex marriage and would call themselves "fully affirming" or "fully inclusive." That is their discernment and the descriptors they have chosen.  It is simply not our theological perspective nor practice. We want to be faithful to what we have discerned Jesus is asking us to be and do. We only have one small part in a very grand story that God Himself in unfolding. There is room for disagreement and a way of love in which we can, and should, honour each other.

What are your ongoing efforts to understand and not perpetuate further harm to the queer community?

There is extensive history both in society and in the Christian Church, of which Vineyard Canada is a part, where the queer community has been mistreated, at times to the extreme. We believe queer people must be treated with dignity and respect. There is no room for bigotry or acts of hatred and violence towards queer people. We acknowledge serious harms have been done, and people have been wounded, including by words spoken at Vineyard events in the past. We are committed to growing in our awareness and understanding in order to not further perpetuate damage to queer people.

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Suicide rates in Canada are significantly higher among queer at risk youth, as well as the transgender community, and cannot be ignored. We hold a deep conviction to serve and love all people, whether or not we share the same beliefs. We are committed to engaging in compassion and care towards the queer community as members of a larger society. Conversion therapy has done tremendous harm and has been perpetuated by the Church for years. Vineyard Canada is committed to equipping our pastors and leaders with healthy models of compassionate pastoral care and discipleship, to enable greater awareness of the queer community, and be better enabled to respond to the unique challenges queer people face.

We are encouraging all our Vineyard churches to never lose the capacity, grace, or pacing to intentionally walk with individuals, particularly with regard to their sexuality. The need to listen and engage with each person's story is critical.

How are you continuing to learn about issues of gender and sexuality?

We hold a deep persuasion in Vineyard Canada to be lifelong learners. Although we have reached a landing place regarding our theology of human sexuality and implications for our Vineyard Churches, we never want to stop conversation and learning. There is so much we all do not know, right across the spectrum of faith, science and culture. We are committed to remaining courteous and non-accusatory as we continue to grow and learn.

Questions pertaining to gender are distinct from sexuality. As such, part of our learning goals for our National Team in 2021 are to further explore gender and implications for discipleship and leadership in Vineyard churches throughout Canada.