A Baptist minister has said that individual Baptist churches should have the freedom to carry out same-sex partnership ceremonies if they decide it is right to do so. Andrew Kleissner, a minister at Christ Church in Ipswich, a joint United Reformed and Baptist Church, writing in the Baptist Times, suggested that the Baptist Union of Great Britain should allow its member churches to make up their own minds on the issue.
He made clear his own willingness to bless same-sex relationships, as well as his respect for those who take a different view. But he also argued for the change on the grounds of the traditional Baptist principle of autonomy for local churches.
“Civil partnerships – some of them between professing Christians – are not only a legal reality but are becoming more common,” wrote Kleissner, “Our refusal to countenance or bless them sends a very strong message of rejection to anyone who may come asking for God’s blessing upon them”. He insisted that Baptists are “a denomination in which individual churches pride themselves on our autonomy”.
He went on, “Why cannot the Union offer some pointers for theological reflection on this matter and then leave ministers and churches to come to their own decisions? This strikes me as a much more authentically ‘Baptist’ way of going about things.”
He explained, “My understanding of this matter has radically changed over the past few years and, although I still struggle with some aspects of gay and lesbian relationships, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer to see people living in committed partnerships”. He emphasised that no minister or church should feel obliged to bless partnerships in which they do not believe. “I appreciate that there are a range of views on this matter,” he explained, “And it could well be – as is the case in some other denominations – that we need to live in loving disagreement”.
He concluded, “What I am asking for is the freedom to decide where I stand, and then to act accordingly. For we do not live under God’s law, but the freedom of his grace.”