Christian “federalism” in Virginia

Reading about a recent action by Pastor David Ensign restored a little faith in my fellow Virginians.

Clarendon Presbyterian Church Pastor David Ensign has an alternative air about him. He wears an earring and has been known to pick up his guitar to play a few hymns during Sunday services.

But he surprised even some of Arlington’s die-hard progressives Nov. 3 at the county’s annual human rights awards ceremony, where his church was honored. He used the occasion to announce the church’s new wedding policy:

Traditional marriages are out. “Celebrations of commitment” are in.

To protest Virginia’s laws banning same-sex marriage, Ensign and the church’s governing council decided recently that Clarendon Presbyterian will no longer have any weddings, and Ensign will renounce his state authority to marry couples.

Any heterosexual couple who has their union “blessed” in a “celebration ceremony” at the tiny church will have to take the extra step of being officially wed by a justice of the peace at the courthouse.

“What we’re saying is that in the commonwealth of Virginia, the laws that govern marriage are unjust and unequal,” said Ensign, 45, who has served as the church’s pastor since 2003. He said that the matter had been bothering him for months and that he suggested the policy to the congregation’s leaders because his conscience would not allow him to continue performing legal marriages on the state’s behalf.

In the coming months, I’ll follow all the available options to protest the proposed “traditional” marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution, even though I’m resigned to the realization that it will pass. But as Pastor Ensign shows, there is hope. No doubt he’ll face some form of punishment or rebuke from Presbyterian Church USA, but he deserves credit for acting Christ-like, which I thought was the purpose of Christianity.

Thankfully, our elected leaders in the General Assembly are smarter than us and know just how to frame decent actions like this. Right?

“I think it’s a shame that this clergyman would seek to undermine traditional marriage, which is the foundation of American society,” said state Sen. Nick Rerras (R-Norfolk), one of the legislation’s sponsors. “It’s a terrible message to send to our youth.”

It’s always about the children, isn’t it? I also thought individual liberty and freedom from tyranny were the foundation of American society, but I’m just some guy, not a State Senator. I’m willing to examine Pastor Ensign’s action from Sen. Rerras’s assumption, although I’m not quite sure what message Sen. Rerras thinks Pastor Ensign is sending. Is he upset that Pastor Ensign is teaching his congregation to reject immoral, unfair social policies? Or is he upset that Pastor Ensign is not teaching his congregation to hate? I suppose the lesson is that America is a Christian nation, unless a Christian pastor determines that his church is in “the Jesus business, not the marriage business.*” Then what, he’s a godless traitor?

I don’t know where Sen. Rerras developed his sense of American government, but it’s pathetic when a pastor understands the function of civil society better than an Assemblyman. I’d laugh at Norfolk for electing Sen. Rerras, but my neighbors are equally stupid.

* This is a quote from the article by Wilson Gunn, general executive of the National Capital Presbytery. I wish I could take credit for it.