Kathy Muder sees her role as minister of a Presbyterian church to represent the message of Christ, which to her means love. leaving judgment about private matters to God, in response to her denomination's vote to allow gay and lesbian ordination.
The official vote came on Tuesday night, as the Huffington Post reports, on the Presbyterian Church voting to allow gay men and women to be admitted to the clergy. The measure had been voted down two years ago, but this year passed after some contentious debate within the denomination.
“It won’t be a huge issue to our congregation, “Muder says. That’s a significant statement from a minister of one of the mainstream churches in the small, Bible-belt town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. On the other hand, she observes her particular church as a standout from others in its relative lack of infusion of social and political beliefs with religion. It is instead filled with what she describes as “gracious people filled with radical hospitality.” One of her members is Margret Harling, the central figure and mother played by Sally Field in the movie “Steel Magnolias” whom Muder describes as the “very best kind of representation of that hospitality.”
Muder recites a meaningful message that sums up much of what her beliefs are about the admission of gays and lesbians to the ministry. It is from a church order written in 1789 she read to me during a recent interview where we discussed her church’s pending decision on gays in the clergy. “God alone is Lord of the conscience,” introduced that reading that underlines the Presbyterian right to private judgment separate from civil power.
Sexuality may be an issue for some in her Natchitoches congregation, or among members against the recent impending decision to allow gays in the clergy, but Muder asks, “Do you lend money?” as a rebuttal to those who worry about sexual orientation, as Christ was specific about neither being a borrower nor a lender. Furthermore, she adds, “What about divorce? Jesus was specific in condemning divorce and even marrying a divorced person. Yet people have been able to put aside these teachings while focusing on the sexual lives of others. “
Muder continues, “I remind myself about the message of Christ to remember “the least of these” in our service to others. To me this means people marginalized by sex, lifestyle, emotional baggage and those who can’t cope with their circumstances. It may not mean those people who drive cars that are as pricey as houses. But maybe even the rich people have issues I can’t see. The message then becomes, don’t judge; you don’t know the whole story. Besides knowing everything is a form of idolatry.”