Marriages and Unions  
  by Bishop Yvette Flunder  

The family, Straight or Same Gender Loving, is an integral part of the church community. Defining family for SGL Christians is a struggle in itself; however the stability of family relationships is foundational to the stability of the community.

How should the church respond to families that don't fit the acceptable social norm? When is marriage a sacrament? The Christian Church had a similar dilemma 200 years ago when it sought to determine how to justify the inclusion of slave families that did not fit the requirement set forth by the church. Some churches as far back as the 1800's had decided to welcome slaves, conditionally, as members. The issue was how could the church receive them 'in good standing' when some of the married slaves had both their current spouses and another spouse and often other children on another plantation. This was due in large part to the ability of the slave master to sell slaves away at will. Underlying this issue was the fact that slave marriages were not considered valid and legal, as slaves were not truly 'people' but possessions. How could the church make their marriages sacred and make them accountable to their vows if their master could force them in and out of their marriages? One church, the Welsh Neck Baptist Church of South Carolina decided that to grant membership to the slave couples was 'less evil' than excommunicating them. They further stated,

That servants separated by their owners, & removed to too great a distance to visit each other, may be considered dead to each other; & therefore at liberty to take a second companion, in the lifetime of the first; as the act of separation was not their own voluntary choice; but the will of those who had legal control over them.

This forward thinking group of Christians were able to see beyond the religious legalism of their time and find a way to help these families so different from their own. They were more interested in finding ways to include and not exclude people with whom they had very little in common and who's life experiences they did not share. What a powerful example of the Love of Jesus.

  Welsh Neck Baptist Church Minutes, 1738 - 1932. American Negro Slavery, excerpted in Mullins, ed., typescript, South Carolina Library, University of South Carolina; P. 278-8  
  Bishop Yvette Flunder is the Presiding Prelate of the Fellowship 2000 Conference. She is also the Founder and Sr. Pastor of City of Refuge, UCC in San Francisco California  



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