Wade Jones and I were married here in Atlanta by the Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson during a private ceremony last week on my 65th birthday, a few days shy of our 15th anniversary, a week before his 55th birthday, and one day after the 10th anniversary of my ordination in the Metropolitan Community Churches.
Wade and I met between my 50th and his 40th birthday at a time I was seriously considering moving back to California.
He is the reason I stayed in Atlanta.
Our ceremony was a joyful occasion with family and a few friends surrounded by our parents’ official wedding pictures and photos of our beloved dogs, Calvin and Hobbes.
As Erin invited the fifteen guests to explain how they knew us, we were moved by their stories and absolute love. Then we proceeded with a brief and very traditional wedding ceremony, followed by dinner at a fine neighborhood restaurant.
But I gotta say this: marriage as an institution has never been my priority—Wade Jones is.
I felt much the same way about ordination. Ordination was not my priority, but ministry was and is—and though, like marriage, there are hundreds of benefits to either institution, ordination and marriage achieve their purposes only if they facilitate ministry and commitment.
For most of my life, I have served as a minister and a partner without the formal approval of either church or state.
And I have to admit, the long delay awaiting both ordination and marriage sobered me.
When young, either event might have been intoxicating, but waiting decades kept me mindful that those institutions (indeed, ALL institutions) are not all they are played up to be, that they don’t of themselves confer either spiritual authority or marital faithfulness.
And when my particular Christian tradition, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) finally “accepted” LGBT ordination and same-gender marriage, it did so without requiring such ordination and only changing its wording on marriage to say that it is between two people, “traditionally a man and a woman.”
But that allowed a Presbyterian minister and longtime friend, Erin Swenson, to perform our ceremony.
Thank God for the Metropolitan Community Church, who has ordained and married LGBT people since its founding in 1968. The denomination’s moderator, the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, preached at my ordination and Erin gave the charge in which she colloquially urged me “to dance with the one who brung you.” Ironically, I unintentionally angered a few Presbyterians for my “disloyalty” to the cause, losing work and missing opportunities, though MCC polity permits dual affiliation.
I know I may sound like the Grinch who stole a marriage, but ordination and marriage are joyous and to be celebrated, not because of recognition by church or state, but because of their implicit and sacred spirit of love, service, mutuality, commitment, and community.
I’ve always enjoyed that.
Originally published at Progressive Christian Reflections Photo via Rev. Chris Glaser