My name is James Reagan and I do not consider myself a religious man, a spiritual man, but not a religious one. Perhaps my reluctance to bond to organized religion is due to its tendency towards exclusion and separation instead of inclusion and acceptance. Conditional love and blessing seem very cruel to those thought to be outside of what is considered to be appropriate.
Many of Christ's actions, taken in the context of his time, were considered abhorrent and clearly upsetting to the religious and secular authorities. The fact that Christ saved the harlot from a public stoning and his admonishment that 'they', the punishers, were sinners; no better than whom they sought to punish, was nothing short of revolutionary and revealing and should reach out and grab our attention even in today's world.
That Christ ministered to and embraced the lepers, an unthinkable and dangerous act for its time, is another example of inclusion and unconditional love and was thought to be abnormal and inconceivable by society at large. Again, a lesson that is as pertinent today as it was over 2,000 years ago; let us hope that it will always be so far into the future.
Growing up in the 50's and 60's in the Roman Catholic Church, we were harangued constantly about sin; good and evil, and though well meaning, the incessant din on exclusion and rejection was not an imitation of Christ because Christ had no fear up to the few hours before his crucifixion. Exclusion, I've now come to understand, is just another word for fear and speaks of a lack of faith.
Any spiritual inspiration or revelation in my 61 years on this planet has not come from denominations, popes, bishops or cardinals...it has come from ordinary people who imitate Christ in their thoughts, words and deeds. These ordinary people are extraordinary because they are not political entities, command no great power, have no remarkable titles and are not graduates from impressive religious seminaries or universities, they lead by example. I am so grateful to these people because they represent faith, hope and courage more so than any religious hierarchy ever could.
You are in a difficult situation in having to judge a good man, Reverend Steven Heiss, and decide whether he will be allowed to minister to his people based on his insistence in marrying same sex couples. The world should be encouraged that these couples should even consider marriage because it indicates their respect for the institution and their desire to be a part of the religious community. Also indicated is their need for the spiritual blessing of their chosen denomination. They hunger for this blessing because they have faith in its power to make them feel whole and closer to Christ. How could anyone turn them away?
Reverend Heiss is doing something new and revolutionary, and some people will not like it. What would Christ do? What would Christ have done during the civil rights marches? Would he have stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King in the face of danger and insults? You already know the answer to that.
Be one of those people who leads by example...not by your title...be one of those ordinary but extraordinary people who stands up for freedom and acceptance. Christ must have called you to such a lofty position for a reason...this may be your time to imitate him...don't let him down...don't let the brave Reverend Heiss down.
James S. Reagan