Bishop Grant J. Hagiya preaching at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination during the 2012 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Session in Pasco, WA. Photo by Amy Pazan, Pacific Northwest Communications Team.
Read the full letter from Bishop Hagiya here (PDF).
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As your Bishop, I am called to serve and lead churches with faithful people who too often stake out their respective corners in the big tent we call United Methodism. While my personal beliefs may align with the majority who strongly affirmed Washington State’s Marriage Equality bill in Pasco this past June, I also experience deeply my call to serve those who stand in faithful opposition to the voice of that majority.
Washington state’s Marriage Equality bill has my support because it does not mandate anyone to do anything they do not want to do, and this is in harmony with my own stance on religious freedom. I believe that it is also consistent with our United Methodist heritage and our shared practice of honoring the deeply held beliefs of others, even when we do not fully agree with them.
As your Bishop I am committed to defending and supporting the rights of all people, even when their “political persuasion” might be different from the majority, or even my own. To those who are currently disappointed, I hope you know that I hear you even as we must disagree in this area.
It is my belief that the future of The United Methodist Church, if it is to have one, is not to be found in dogmatic conformity to one possible expression and understanding of faithfulness. Instead, it will be discovered as we open our hearts to the pain present in world around us, our minds to revealed truth and the Spirit’s continued work through the church, and our doors to all of God’s beloved children.
I shall continue to pray for all sides of this challenging issue. I ask you to do the same, and to keep me in your prayers as we each seek God’s Spirit and a fullness of truth that is always beyond our understanding. Let me leave you with a few refreshed words of Wesley’s as a blessing and a prayer.
In the name, then, and in the strength of God, let us resolve not to hurt one another; to do nothing unkind or unfriendly to each other…
Let us, with God being our helper, speak nothing harsh or unkind of each other…
Let us endeavor to harbor no unkind thought, nor to allow anger or resentment to remain, which is contrary to tender affection…
Finally, let us work to help each other on in whatever we are agreed leads to the creation of the just society Jesus preached of. As much as possible, let’s rejoice when we have common cause to do God’s work together…
Above all, let us each take personal responsibility (since each must give an account of themselves to God) so that we do not fall short of the religion of love, each accountable to the Gospel they received.
Your affectionate servant, for Christ’s sake,
Thank you, Bishop.
So nicely said. Thank you!
While I can appreciate your desire to not estrange yourself from anyone in our Methodist denomination, I see no scriptural foundation for agreeing that homosexual unions are on par with heterosexual unions. Homosexual individuals currently enjoy full civil rights under the law, and while I do not believe that people of homosexual inclination should be discriminated against; neither should they receive ‘special status’ under the law. This is not an issue of equality but of definition. This is such a difficult issue–so potentially divisive and painful to take a stand about. I believe there are committed Christians who are homosexual, but as such are called to remain celibate. In a similar vein, I as a single woman, constantly pray to remain sexually pure and so honor the God who made me and my sexuality and knows what is best for me. I also believe there are homosexual couples who are faithful and loving to one another. Those are fine qualities, but do not in and of themselves are sufficient to make the union a godly one. We need not fear bucking the tide of popular opinion. We can trust God’s word for our counsel and our guide. I think you are off-base, Bishop Hagiya, but I respect your right to your opinion. But, it is just your opinion. Again, I must say, I see no clear scriptural foundation for your view. We don’t advance the kingdom of God by just doing what is right in our own eyes.
Love in Him Who First Loved Us,
Kath, I stand beside you. If they want to have a union, call it something beside marriage.
You stated it better than I could have. I am in agreement with you 100%. I wish someone could/would point out where in the bible it condones homosexual marriage.
Thank you Bishop, for your clarity and wisdom.
I respectfully dissent, Bishop; but I respect your right to express your views. The big debate is really over the word “marriage” and gay couples desire to equate their relationship with those of us who think– as the General Conference affirmed– that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. If we synch up our laws so that a couple in a domestic partnership have the same rights and duties as a married couple, we don’t need to overturn thousands of years of history by changing their relationship to one of marriage.
As a youth pastor who sees the pain and confusion that plagues this generation, it saddens me to see the church stand for popular belief instead of Biblical truth. I agree with the bishop that there is pain present in our world, and that our hearts need to be open to those who are in pain. However, the solution is not found in having an open heart to the pain, or honoring the deeply held beliefs of others. A person may believe something deeply but that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it leads to freedom. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” If we truly care about people who are in pain we will honor them as those created in the image of God, no matter their belief, but but we will be faithful enough to them to speak the truth in love knowing that truth is what will lead to their freedom. If we wish to see the church grow in strength and influence, she must stand for Biblical truth, not for what popular culture says is true.
Thanks Bishop for your faith-full example. I especially appreciate a significant shift in language that I’ve observed during your PNW tenure. Once at a clergy meeting a few years ago you referenced “the great institution which we serve.” More and more and now in this letter you speak instead of “fidelity to the gospel’s call.” Therein is our Life. Hurray! God’s people can pray “Thy kingdom come” in profound solidarity, even as we disagree on how to get there. I hear the Good Shepherd’s voice in your’s Bishop. THank you!
My thoughts and prayers join your. . .May we all love as Christ our true example.
God bless you and grant you peace in these difficult times.
Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.
Maybe you could explain this to me because I have a hard time understanding. Since when does one religion or group of people own the definition of marriage. Does it only belong to Christians or can Buddhists and Mormons use it too?
I don’t see Conservative Christians picketing to deny secular heterosexuals the right to call their unions ‘marriage’ despite the clear and open refusal to acknowledge God as a part of ‘marriage.’ Yet when two gay men want to marry and include God (or not) in that commitment, suddenly it is a grand ‘redefinition’ of marriage.
It strikes me as homophobia because I do not see the consistency. If you can explain your position, I’m willing to listen.
BTW, I am a straight married man with kids, not that it should make a difference.
There is a Harvard Journal Article is online – please download and read the 43 pages. It doesn’t take too long and is very scholarly and well thought out. It covers Equality, Justice and the Heart of the Debate, — If Not Same-Sex Couples, Why Infertile Ones, — Challenges for Revisionists — and Isn’t It Only Natural — among all other related topics. It never uses religion to make any of its points.
I believe in the Bible as the Word of God that tells us God created marriage as between a man and a woman. This article is for those who do not necessarily believe it as I do.
(All from “What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis*, Robert P. George**, & Ryan T. Anderson***, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy Vol 34, No. 1. Winter 2011.)
* Ph.D .Candidate in Philosophy, Princeton University.
** McCormick Professor of Jusrisprudence, Princeton University.
*** Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, University of Notre Dame
Retrieved Oct 26, 2012 from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155## [Click on “Download this Paper”]
It’s nice to see a leader who gets it. Thank God for leaders like Bishop Hagiya!
It’s disappointing to see so many fellow Methodists who seemingly absorb the talking points of the Republican party more readily than the generous spirituality of that Jewish guy they sing to every Sunday.
What a selfish and un Christian thing to say that some people don’t have the same rights as others. Different groups have been fighting against discrimination forever, and just because something has been in effect for thousands of years does not make it right. The most idiotic thing I have ever heard is that gay couples have the right to adopt children but can’t get married. People that say it’s protecting the sanctity of marriage and that children need a mother and father must be living in a cave. Do you know how many people get divorced and the children suffer terribly? You can’t tell me that they are better than possibly 2 gay people getting married that have just as much chance at providing a loving home. No one can tell me that if they personally were different from other people in any way, and were discriminated against having the same rights, that they wouldn’t fight just as hard. What happened to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Thank you, Bishop-I appreciated your letter.
As far as interracial marriages I have never had any problem with them. I rather rejoice in their freedom. Sadly, bans on interracial marriage were about keeping two races apart so that one race could oppress the other. Marriage is about bringing two sexes together, so that children get the love of their own mom and a dad, and women don’t get stuck with the enormous disadvantages of parenting alone. Having a parent of two different races is just not the same as being deprived of your mother—or your father.
And High rates of divorce are one more reason we should be strengthening marriage, not conducting radical social experiments on it.