It’s always hard to say good bye, and we are having to say good-bye to some very good friends in the very near future. Walt and Peg Leszczyszyn are moving back to Canada to be near to their oldest daughter. Both Walt and Peg are Canadian citizens. Joe and Sharon Dzwonar are moving to a retirement community in Indianapolis where they will live very near to their son and his family and nearer to their daughter. I tried praying that their homes in La Porte wouldn’t sell, but it didn’t work.
I will dearly miss these two couples. Walt and Peg are two of those positive people who bless any congregation of which they are a part. Peg has been faithful to our Member Care ministry since it was formed, making visits to our shut-ins and was faithful before to our Deacon ministry. For many years Walt, single-handedly was the jail ministry from our church. Who knows how many lives Walt touched as he took carts of books through the jail and offered a word of hope in Jesus Christ. I will miss their kind words each Sunday at the end of worship and their ready smiles. The next congregation they worship with will be very lucky to have them. It is hard for me to find words to say good-bye to Joe and Sharon Dzwonar. Joe was the chair of the Pastoral Nominating Committee that asked me to come to La Porte. Joe gave me a tour of our city and took me to the best restaurants in town: Christos and McDonalds! He spoke lovingly of this congregation in a way that evoked compassion in me for this church 8 years ago. I simply wouldn’t be here without Joe. Joe also followed closely the unwritten rules for the chair of the PNC. That is, having been responsible for getting me here, Joe never said no when I asked him to serve the church. He stepped up to take a term on Session, helped to develop a fabulous church staff, and chaired our Strategic Planning Team along with many smaller tasks. I learned, over time, that was Joe’s way. He said “yes” to our church time and time again. He is especially to be thanked for his leadership in the difficult days when the La Porte congregation couldn’t find an interim pastor. Our faith community is better and stronger today because of his past service.
The conversation on May 8th included a presentation by Dr. Carrie Bjonback in which Carrie described the latest brain research about the physiological origins of same-sex attraction. Most medical research indicated homosexuality is biologically driven and is not a matter of “choice.” I then led the group through an exploration of the purpose of marriage in the Bible which focuses on marriage as a place to learn self-giving, sacrificial love. I also did an analysis of the background and biblical context surrounding the scriptures that are often presented as evidence for condemning homosexually in general, but which were more likely targeted at condemning violent, abusive or exploitative homosexual acts which were committed as a means of demeaning or violating persons over which control was sought. Such scripture passages should not inform our opinions about loving committed same sex relationships any more than heterosexual rape or abuse should form our opinions about loving committed opposite sex relationships. Conversations around tables then centered around creating a policy for our church that would either allow or not allow same-sex marriage in our church. A good conversation continued at Session the next evening, but a decision has not been reached. The Session takes seriously their role as spiritual leaders in our church. When they were ordained to the office of Elder, they each understood they are to pray, study the scriptures and seek the will of God for our congregation. The Session is taking time to discern. They will talk again in June and July and plan to make a decision in August. Many of them are also reading the book, The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier. We are purchasing a few copies for the library and I commend it to you. We are also planning to have a second “Congregational Conversation” opportunity, probably in late July. We’ll keep you informed. In the meantime, if you have questions or want to engage this conversation individually I am available to talk as are the members of the Session. Please feel free to ask for a visit!