“The Pharisees were religious leaders in the Jewish society at the time of Jesus. They were religious fundamentalists who focused on strict observance of the Jewish laws, ceremonies and traditions. … Pharisees strongly encouraged the Jewish people to pursue righteousness by closely following the Jewish laws and not compromising with the beliefs and ways of the Romans. The Pharisees openly opposed Jesus for many reasons. They were particularly appalled at his acts of healing people on the Sabbath and his blatant claims to divinity.
Jesus denounced them as being hypocrites. They often lived moral lives, full of good deeds, but it was all outward actions with no thought given to the heart or motives of the actions.”
Consider – Pharisees were the ‘fundamentalists’ of Jesus’ time. Did Jesus join in with their fundamentalism? Did he adhere slavishly to Biblical law? Or did he follow his heart and do what it told him was right – even when it meant outraging the religious bureaucracy and the status quo. Jesus was not legalistic in following Jewish law. He challenged it. He called on people to do the right thing for the right reason – not just because it was ‘written’. And if what was ‘written’ was not in the interests of someone who needed help – Jesus just ignored it. It seems that Jesus felt he answered to God, not to the Pharisees.
And what was the penalty of Jesus’ insistence on putting people before the leadership of the temple? Crucifixion.
Today, I heard of some legalistic, religious fundamentalists who have taken exception to someone in their midst who followed his heart rather than their rules. Baptist Minister, the Reverend Matt Glover from Lilydale Baptist church in Victoria has been forced to resign because he spoke out in favour of marriage equality.
This puts Pastor Glover, the father of two small children, out of a job just before Christmas. How very Christian of the Baptist pharisees … er …. conservatives.
In his “Pastoral Response to the Homosexuality in the Church” (2010), Pastor Glover says:
“Our churches have argued the issue on biblical, theological and moral grounds for years, and agreement seems elusive. But as the battles rage, real people are being forgotten, left bruised and hurting, and wondering where they fit. While not tackling the more specific issues of the debate like gay marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals, it is the purpose of this paper to bring another approach to the issue that is based on our equality before God, the work of the Spirit in our lives, and the unity that the Spirit produces in our church communities.
This alternative approach requires journeying with the real people stuck in the middle of the debate, listening to their questions and seeking answers together. It is a pastoral response that has its grounding in scripture and in my experience of ministry over the last twenty years …
Pastoral care begins with the life and practice of Jesus. With those on the fringe of his society, Jesus was welcoming and compassionate, touching the untouchable, loving the unlovable and creating a community that saw all people as equals before God. His life included teaching on scripture and the condemnation of religious leaders who had twisted scripture to protect the institutional religion. But never did Jesus isolate those with a genuine response to his care and his teaching on the Kingdom of God.
Pastoral care in the church must reflect the care of Jesus by opposing rules that drain life, and instead, create a life giving community where burdens are carried together.
This is not some liberal ‘whim’ of Pastor Glover’s. It is clear he has thought on this issue deeply. He has also, obviously, spent a great deal of time amongst the gay and lesbian community – seeking to understand them, so that he can properly represent their interests and help alleviate their suffering.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he doesn’t see himself as ‘Christ-like’ – but he does see himself as trying to act ‘like’ Christ, something the conservative members of his church clearly fail to do.
As an interesting side-note, in Satan: A Biography, Biblical scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly strips away the medieval caricature of Satan and reveals the Biblical character as an over-zealous heavenly bureaucrat intent on ‘catching people out’ when they break God’s laws and taking delight in their punishment.
“His job is to test people’s virtue and to report their failures,” Kelly said.
Meanwhile, in passages in Luke, Matthew, Corinthians and elsewhere in the New Testament, Satan continues to act as a tester, enforcer and prosecutor but not as God’s enemy, Kelly points out.
This is not to say, however, that Kelly contends that Satan is likeable.
“Jesus doesn’t like him, and Paul doesn’t like him,” Kelly explained. “He represents the old guard in the heavenly bureaucracy, and everyone longs for him to be disbarred as the chief accuser of humankind.”
Perhaps the legalists in the Baptist church should take a good look in the mirror and determine whether it is the face of Jesus or Satan peering back at them!
When Pastor Glover said on the Australian Marriage Equality website that he supported same-sex marriage, conservative voices within the church went into a tizz.
Conservatives have accused him of ”opening the door to sin”, while activist Christian group Salt Shakers asked followers to pray that God would ”improve or remove” him …
When he became senior pastor two years ago, he was open about his 15-year ministry to gays and lesbians.
”I’ve met many who have had faith in the past but because of their sexual orientation have been isolated from church and family. I felt a burden to stand in the gap between the church and person,” Mr Glover says.
… ”Salt Shakers and the Australian Christian Lobby were saying gay marriage would open the door to paedophilia. I couldn’t sit back and let Christian leaders say things like that, that are untrue. I gave a statement to Australian Marriage Equality, and that was the last straw.”
As Pastor Glover was reportedly excellent at his job it was hoped he would be allowed to stay on and serve his parish, despite the unpopularity of his position with conservatives within the church. It now seems that has not been possible and he has been forced (or felt it necessary) to resign.
Shelley Argent of PFlag (Parents and Friends of lesbians and gays) Queensland, has started a fundraising appeal for Matt Glover and his family by donating $1000.
She has opened a bank account at the Bank of Queensland for direct debits and donations.
BSB: 124-001 Account No: 2172-4166
Account Name: Shelley Argent (for Matt Glover)
Please put in what you can.
If you would like to post a cheque or money order please write them to Rev. M. Glover and address the envelope to PFLAG, PO Box 1372, Eagle Farm 4009.
We spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about Christians doing the wrong thing. When Christians do the right thing, I think they deserve our help and support. I can’t afford much, but Pastor Glover will be getting a little present from me in the mail, and I hope you might add him and his family to your Christmas list as well. Even if you can’t donate, I’m sure a card or a letter stating your appreciation for his stance would be much appreciated. If you want to send an email of support to Matt, you can send it via firstname.lastname@example.org with Att: Matt Glover in the subject line. If you’re on twitter you can send a friendly tweet to @Matt_Glover.
If you wish to discuss this matter further with Shelley Argent before donating, contact me at email@example.com and I will pass on her contact details.
Media: Pastor supporter for gay marriage out in the cold, Barney Zwartz, Melbourne Age