The Fraser Road United Church in Gander is opening its arms of freedom as it passed a non-discrimination marriage policy. The decision is a progressive and favourable response that will help push the church forward, said Reverend Sheldon LeGrow.
“That’s where I am coming from,” said Rev. LeGrow. “I would like our church to be more progressive, more in line with modern thinking and modern problems. There are more things that we have to deal with.”
The non-discrimination marriage policy has been the official stance of the United Church of Canada for over two decades, but it left individual churches with the responsibility of making the ultimate decision “when they were ready,” said Rev. LeGrow.
The decision to include a non-discrimination marriage policy at Fraser Road United Church never passed nearly 10 years ago, but times have changed and with a 73 per cent approval rating, the church passed the policy several weeks ago. A ballot was handed out to 129 people, and 94 of them agreed with the all-inclusive policy.
“Some churches felt they were ready for non-discrimination marriages 20 years ago, some didn’t fell ready until 10 years ago,” said Rev. LeGrow. “We felt ready a few weeks ago. Being a democratic church, we felt we’d get the opinion of the people.”
Several other United Churches in the province have already passed the non-discrimination marriage policy, including Cochrane and Gower Street in St. John’s, as well as Botwood, Corner Brook, Stephenville and Labrador City.
Passing the new marriage policy will not only show how open the church is, but is an example of an understanding that Rev. LeGrow learned from a past profession.
“I used to be a photographer and I use this as an analogy in my sermons: Black and white photography is metaphoric to me because I realized that black and white picture in not really black and white,” he said. “You have your black and white and then shades in between. So, ethics is like that, society is like and the choices we make are like that. There’s no such thing as saying ‘this is the way it is’ and never discuss it anymore. We have to constantly be in discussion.”
It was time for change, and having the non-discrimination marriage policy will put the church in line with the beliefs of the United Church of Canada and the Christian faith, said Rev. LeGrow.
“Jesus says ‘love one another’; he doesn’t say to love only those who are like you. He doesn’t say to only love these who are of the same economic strata, he doesn’t say to love these who are white, and he doesn’t say to love these who are heterosexual; he says to just love people.”
The decision to have the congregation vote on the policy came up a few weeks ago when Rev. LeGrow sat down with the church’s session council to discuss the matter. The session council is made up of a dozen or so people, and it determines the spiritual aspect of the church. They agreed that it was once again time to ask the people of the church how they felt about having the non-discrimination marriage policy. The question on the ballot was posed by asking voters whether or not they agreed with the following statement:
“Professing to follow the teaching of Jesus that we love and respect one another, we feel that within our spiritual community there should be no discrimination based on race, gender, age or sexual orientation. Therefore, the Marriage Policy of the First United Church in Glenwood and Fraser Road United Church is to be revised to allow the minister to marry any couple with a valid marriage license.”
The response was largely in favour of having a non-discrimination marriage policy, and was met with acceptance by all members of the church.
“There was no reaction, and it was accepted. It was accepted for what it was and I’m grateful for that,” said Rev. LeGrow. “I asked people to humbly accept the results no matter what they are.”
Marriage is all about love, and so is the Christian faith, he said. That’s why he feels it’s only right to have a non-discrimination marriage policy.
“When you’re looking at asking for God’s blessing in a union where two people love one another, what’s wrong with that? Why do we make it our business to look at another person’s sexuality and inflict our own opinions?”
Having the church’s members pass the all-inclusive policy has been an upside for the humble reverend of Fraser Road United Church.
“The best thing about it for me is that I can see the congregation growing,” he said. “I can see the congregation growing spiritually.”