Interview: Senior Minister Of United Church Of Christ Congregation Talks About Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessings By Peter Menkin

of Tobit’s wife taking on a goat. In most of the discussion I’ve had with people, most of the material has been open to mainstream, regular passages. There has not been a big to-do over special readings for Gay people. The whole thing is moving into the main stream. Hey there, we have similar needs, similar desires.  

At what point in your life, did you begin to support the subject of this interview? Has it been since being a UCC ordained minister? Is there anyone you respect in specific who does not agree with your stance?

  Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent:  My father was a minister, and he met my mother in seminary. He was United Church of Christ. We had always been a part of a liberal and progressive way of worshiping. He had a problem with Gay marriage as an issue, but intellectually overcame that. My father grew up in an era where he did not show a lot of affection. It was something that I missed. It was a resentment on my part that he didn’t tell me he loved me. I think I was 50 years old that he first told me he loved me. He was afraid if he showed too much affection for me and his brother he was afraid we would become Gay. I’ve not known a time when I really had a problem with the issue of Gay Marriage. It is a matter of being in committed, covenanted relationships. My problem is the same as with heterosexual relationships. When it becomes a sexual relationship solely, it becomes about satisfying our own hunger, not about a caring relationship.  

Though we have not talked about Proposition 8 in California, how do you characterize the results of the vote which said Yes to deny Gay Marriage in the State? Is there a kind of guilt to this position in the moral or spiritual sense?

  I think that people who have been so opposed with Prop 8, seem to suggest that somehow their marriage is going to be devalued by same sex marriages; my first reaction is How insecure are you. The point is when a relationship is based on mutuality and trust and caring for one another, this can only enhance our society.    

At what point in the faith and concern of the United Church of Christ (nationally and in your congregation) did the tide turn towards Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessing? Will you tell us something of your personal experience in faith and concern regarding the faith issue? Was it a teaching of Jesus Christ, a meditation on the Bible?

  Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent: It’s been a turbulent time, when the United Church of Christ decided to include the Rights of Marriage recommendation; they were other conferences that withdrew from the United Church of Christ. Puerto Rico withdrew from UCC, Pennsylvania (Western Pennsylvania) withdrew from the UCC (several associations did this). I think there were associations in Indiana who did the same thing. In our area.   Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent: My personal experience: When I cam to the Church in Los Altos 10 years ago, I was asked will this be one of your major issues? I said, No. But they needed to understand that I was an open and affirming minister, and this is the way I would administer the Church. When lay people from within the Church itself said to me and everyone else, We need to move ahead and become an open and affirming Church, I would be there to support them. There were people on that committee who thought, that’s okay. We can probably counter him, block this if we need to. Over the ten years we have practiced this, and in the past three years we have become an open and affirming Church. We lost a few members, but we gained a number of young families. All of them said they wanted to become part of a Church that was this; they wanted their children to be brought up in this kind of Church. I was asked also, will you do a same sex marriage. I said, Yes, I would. If I were asked. Before I would have taken that request to the Deacon (they are one of the ruling body of the Church, they are the lay leaders of Foothills Congregational Church UCC). I’m pretty sure they would have said Yes, but after we became an open and affirming Church, we were able to do it. I turned to a founding member of the fifty year old Church, did you ever imagine we would have a same sex wedding at Foothills. Never in my wildest dreams. Wasn’t it just perfect, she said.  

Have you given a sermon on the subject, and may we see text of a key excerpt?

  Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent: I tend not to beat these things into the ground. I’m more of a Biblical teacher, but I have used the issue as a reflection or illustration in a sermon. Several times I’ve used it: This is why Gay or Lesbian or Transgender people are so upset over this issue. Rather than preach on social hot topics, I try to interweave our concerns with the Biblical texts. I’m trying to create a way in which we can all talk to one another.  

What is your sense of community of believers, in part in its congregational sense and as a dimension of your leadership of a congregation? How is your sense of Community extended beyond your denomination to the greater world, and again will you give us some Biblical instruction, maybe from the Old Testament as it relates to the New, on this topic of Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessing?

 

I suppose we’ve covered the subject, but to rephrase the previous question as I think it important to our topic, and you do not need to speak directly to the topic in your reply to the previous question or this one, what does Church mean to you as senior minister? What is your vision, as one might say?

  Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent: What I believe the Church to be, is the body of Christ. We are called to incarnate the spirit of Christ in the world, and that we carry that Christ life within us into the world. All of us are one body; here we are all included in this. My vision of the Church is that includes my Evangelical brothers, Catholics and Orthodox, all of the Church. What we’re called to is not to identify ourselves as an exclusive club in the world, but to manifest the church as the Kingdom of God to the world. It is a very inclusive vision. How can I be inclusive? How can God be in the world, not just in the Church, but in the creation? One of the key words is transforming the word kingdom to Kingdom. I think that is what Jesus was talking about; we’ve go it confused, as if Jesus is all powerful and going to judge us. He talks about how all of us are gathered into this kin to one another, that Jesus is opening an invitation to be kin to one another. It is so broad it is beyond religious identity. If God is love, then God is love absolutely.  

In my email correspondence with The Reverend Michael D. Schuenemeyer we discussed a series of issues and contemporary issue topics regarding Gay Marriage & Same Sex Blessings. I asked him if San Francisco and California is in the forefront of the Church’s missionary activity in this area, and if it as secular society is in the forefront. Do you agree with his answer, and will you comment on his remarks? He says and I asked:

 

 What area is leading in their receptivity of the matter; is it San Francisco?

 

 For the UCC, this effort is not unique to California and so it is difficult to say where the leading edge of this movement is in our denomination. There are churches, pastors and layperson engage on both the civil and religious in many places around the country, especially in those states that have been successful achieving marriage equality, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa. The congregations that tend to be most involved are those which have done an educational process called the Open and Affirming process. This process usually leads a local church to publicly declare their welcome and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person in the full life and ministry of the church.

 

 There has also been strong engagement where marriage equality has not yet been realized either on the ballot or in the courts, or where states have adopted anti-gay marriage statutes. UCC leaders, clergy and lay, have ensured that their progressive religion is heard and have supported organizing efforts that have been successful in building a movement that despite recent setbacks will ultimately be successful. 

 

 The energy tends to be strongest in the areas where there is a high level of legislative, ballot or legal activity. This fall, Maine is going to be very active and there will be many UCC churches and leaders involved in the effort to defeat their ballot initiative to repeal marriage equality there. There is a lot of activity in Iowa in the effort to protect the court decision. California will also continue to be a place of activity with efforts to repeal Prop 8 as early as 2010 or 2012

  This is a personal reaction by Senior Minister, Reverend Matt Broadbent : He [Reverend Michael] is mentioning states you wouldn’t think would open up to same sex marriage. I grew up in New Hampshire. I came to California in the winter of 1979; I experienced California as everybody generally liberal in their social behavior. But the religious atmosphere was fairly conservative in its nature, especially in the valley and other areas. People were socially conservative in New Hampshire and were generally religiously liberal. As a general kind of environment. So I can understand why those New England States agreed to Same Sex Marriages. I know their expectation was they were going to act in an appropriate way. In California people don’t always act in an appropriate way, but religiously they are very closed over. I find this an odd paradox. It doesn’t surprise that in California they defeated this idea of same sex marriage. Even though California is seen as a left coast kind of life. It is one of the paradoxes of life. For me personally, I