Saturday, August 07, 2010

Ecclesial Implications of Marriage Equality

If, as I believe, the pendulum has swung in the direction of legalizing the marriages of gays and lesbians, the church will be forced to wrestle with its implications.  I've invited John, one of our frequent commentators and an attorney, to write a legal analysis of the Prop 8 decision.  From what I've been reading, its unlikely that the appellate courts will overturn the District Court ruling on legal grounds.  It is, therefore, likely that the case will go to the Supreme Court.  Should they hear it -- and generally that means that four justices agree to hear it -- then it will be interesting to see where this goes.  If things go as they generally do, the deciding vote will be Anthony Kennedy.  If this ruling stands, and it just might do so, then it has implications for the entire country.  If upheld, it could very well overturn gay marriage bans across the country.  Now there could be an effort to enshrine traditional marriage into the Constitution, but I don't think that this will fare well.  Amendments to the Constitution take a lot of time and effort, and the cultural trends are working against such an eventuality.

Therefore, I believe that the ball has been effectively placed in the court of the church (and other religious communities).  Although the legal ramifications could mean that the "state" could no longer refuse to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples, and it could lead to the overturning of the "Defense of Marriage Act," which denies recognition to same sex couples on a statutory basis, this doesn't mean that churches have to recognize such marriages.  Clergy do act as agents of the state when they perform weddings, but they're not the only possible agents. 

So the question looms -- how will the church respond?  At least initially, I expect most ecclesial bodies will continue business as usual.  With few exceptions, most Christian denominations do not recognize gay unions of any kind, including marriage.  My own denomination, the Disciples of Christ, has taken no official position, so that really leaves it up to local congregations.  As for my congregation, we are only now beginning conversations about these issues (not just gay marriage, but homosexuality and the church in general).  We've not taken a position, and it is my stated view that I will not participate in such a marriage ceremony until the congregation has come to a consensus on the issue.  At this point, I simply don't know where the congregation will come out on this issue.  I know that there is openness, but traditions and cultural mores die very slowly, if at all.  Tradition may not be a useful argument in the court of law, but it is in the church. 

So, I'd like to open up the discussion as to what the implications for the church might be.  Let me put a caveat here -- I'd rather that we not reargue the question of whether or not Scripture casts homosexuality in a negative light -- we've had this discussion.  I'd rather not have this be about the legal aspects either -- hopefully John can shed light on that question.  What I'd like for us to do is have a "civil" conversation that wrestles with the implications for the church if Prop 8 is declared unconstitutional, which might make it legal across the vastness of this nation for people to marry same sex partners and receive all the rights and benefits currently accorded to heterosexual couples.   

39 comments:

Gary said...

This is not a controversial issue for Bible-believing churches because they have already decided that their position is dictated by Scripture.

Any chuch, that is worthy of the name, will reject same-sex marriage as being outside of the moral boundaries God has set. This would have to mean that not only do they refuse to perform such "marriages", but that they reject the legality of such arrangements as being legitimate.

Any pastor who refuses to take a firm stand against such vulgarity should be immediately dismissed from his position. Sadly, many churches, so-called, have already gone into apostasy and will sanction same-sex marriage, as they have already sanctioned homosexuals.

Don Wheeler said...

I guess for me, it is not about the traditions or opinions of men... ultimately, peoples opinions or beliefs have very little to say about this matter. Looking to the traditions of men, or taking a poll of what a congregation might think when the wind blows from a different direction, is a sad way to lead or shepherd a congregation. It simply comes down to obeying God...and I personally don't think Gods word is vague or unclear when it comes to what sin is, how He feels about it, or how He will ultimately deal with it.

Doug Sloan said...

Our congregation looks forward to the day when we can attend the marriages of our same-sex couples in our sanctuary. For each marriage, it will be a holy day of worship and commitment and a great celebration.

Gary said...

Doug Sloan,

You remind me of Romans 1: 18-32.

Doug Sloan said...

Gary,

Yes, Paul really opposed temple prostitution. It is wrong to reduce sex to a commercial relationship void of love and commitment.

David Mc said...

It wouldn't bother me if we bless same sex unions or even called it marriage. I would understand if the congregation wasn't ready, but I feel they wouldn't make those married elsewhere feel like outsiders. I'm no expert, but I think committed couples who feel their union blessed and made sacred among believers would have truer unions. On a practical note, resistant forms of aids are becoming prevalent in some areas. Increased monogamy and lessened stigma should lower their spread and help contain the threat to all.

David Mc said...

"It wouldn't bother me". Sorry, too wishy-washy, I'd be very pleased and proud.

Glenn said...

For conservative "Bible believing" churches the only legal implication that I can see would be whether or not they would be forced to perform same sex ceremonies against their will. But the ability granted to churches by the state to perform marriages is a right, not a requirement and since no state law has ever required churches to perform marriages to which they have a theological objection to (i.e. interfaith marriage, remarriage of divorcees, etc.) this concern is of no real consequence.

For more progressive congregations, I think the most obvious implication is how long it will take these churches to recognize the benefits that the right to marry the person of one's choosing has on all people such as long term stable relationships, increased commitment to family and community as well as improved physical and mental health.

It's interesting to note that in Denmark, where same sex marriage has been legal since the late 1980s, over 70% of Danish clergy were opposed to the law when it passed. Today, surveys show that over 90% of those same clergy now favor the law because of the many beneficial effects that it has had on both the gay and straight communities.

Gary said...

The 90 percent of Danish "clergy" who now favor "same-sex marriage" do so not because it is beneficial to Danish society, but because they are a bunch of unbelievers pretending to be Christians. In other words, they're all infidels, just like all the phony "Christians" in America who favor this abomination.

Glenn said...

Yes, Gary. I'm well aware that in your view, all who don't see the world as you do are infidels. I'm also familiar with your other favorite opinions that all Muslims are evil and evolution is completely incompatible with the BIble.

John said...

Preliminary observations:

1.  The plaintiffs in the case who sought to overturn the statute were blessed to draw a judge who was openly gay and living in a long term committed relationship.  At first blush this may seem inappropriate, but face it, any judge was going to have a sexual orientation; all that can be hoped for is that the judge will be ethical and work to prevent his or her own orientation not influence his or her decision making.

2.  The government defendants refused to defend the statute so the court allowed the proponents of the statute to intervene to defend it.  Notwithstanding all the money and all the resources available to the proponents, they used only two expert witnesses (to the plaintiffs' eight) and their primary expert, David Blankenhorn, was no expert at all but a mere partisan of the issue, with no credentials whatsoever as to the historical, sociological, legal or psychological issues surrounding the institution of marriage.  Incredible, and it is no wonder that they lost, regardless of the merits of their position.  

John said...

I meant to say the plaintiffs presented nine expert witnesses to the proponents two, while plaintiffs also presented eight lay witnesses while the proponents presented none.

Gary said...

The outcome of the case did not rest on the witnesses, or on the Constitution; the judge had already decided this case before the trial began.

Doug Sloan said...

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=388&invol=1

link to text of
LOVING v. VIRGINIA, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

(quoting from the decision)
These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888).

Doug Sloan said...

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i//MSNBC/Sections/NEWS/A_U.S.%20news/Life/gaymarriage.pdf

text of PERRY v. SCHWARZENEGGER
(a 138-page ruling)

Plaintiffs' Witnesses: pp. 25-34

Proponents' Witnesses: pp. 35-53

Findings of Fact: pp. 54-108

Conclusions of Law: pp. 109-134

David Mc said...

Thanks for putting my points in legaleaze Doug. Gary, are you creating the mental eternity you really desire? Don't you think God has something better in mind for His creation? He loves us, right? Look at the "guilty" in Iran waiting their fate. Are their judges different from you?

You bear false witness and judge beyond your authority. Good luck with that. It must be easy with deranged a preacher in the family? You're young enough to change.

Gary said...

David,

How have I born false witness?

My brother is deranged? Can you prove that? And if not, who is it that is judging beyond his authority and bearing false witness?

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute. Did I miss an episode? Who is Gary's brother?

John said...

David has his suspicions and appears to be close to the mark.

John

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

My congregation already performs same-sex weddings although they are not legally recognized by KY as marriages.

I am glad that this will force churches to realize that civil marriage (the right to sue one another if you get tired of each other and the guarantee that your kids can inherit in all 50 states) and Christian marriage are not identical. I think the church should change its views on same-sex marriage, but I am glad that this is not the purview of the state.

David Mc said...

Gary said, "How have I born false witness?"

The latest and greatest-

"It is impossible to rationally conclude that the god of Islam is the God of the Old and New Testaments."

Gary said, "My brother is deranged? Can you prove that?"

I didn't say "brother", I said "family member". Geeze, is this an old Perry Mason episode?

Anyone who spreads irrational fear and hate in the name of Jesus is deranged in my book.

David Mc said...

I do feel bad about that post Gary. I don't think you exposed yourself on purpose. I just followed the link you supplied. Please forgive my assumptions if they are in error.

Gary said...

David,

Do muslims believe that "allah" is the same God that the Bible talks about? Don't muslims deny the trinity? Don't they deny the deity of Jesus Christ? Don't they deny that God chose the Jews? I'm pretty sure they deny all of those things. So, if the muslims don't believe that "allah" is the same God that the Bible reveals, why do you? And why do you accuse me of lying about who the muslims think their god is when they agree with me that it isn't the God of the Old and New Testaments?

Gary said...

David,

I forgot to mention this: I have found that your "book" is filled with errors, so I don't give much consideration to what is in it.

David Mc said...

Don't the Jews deny the trinity ALSO? When did your church stop hating Jews (if they did)? It was a recent revelation I suspect. "Enemy of your enemy type of thing?".

"I have found that your "book" is filled with errors."

I'll admit my "book" is probably filled with errors, mostly due to pride. My perspective is authentic to me though and I try to follow the straight path.

I find much evidence to support all three major monotheistic religions worship a common God. All their books have errors in my opinion. Please give your evidence.

If you seek truth, humility and empathy should be your first steps.

Anonymous said...

I get it now. Gary's brother is the infamous Randy Bryson from warningsofwratch.com. I spotted one of Gary's signature posts on the website (Rick Lannoye is an ignoramous and a heretic. Gary). I guess that explains a lot. I love their "ethics" uniform at warningsofwrath of dress pants, dress shirt and tie (unless it's too hot). I guess it's O.K. to compromise your ethics if the temperature rises too much.

David Mc said...

Let's not fall into any traps. The Taliban-like show the wrong way. We are all created equal, we just get screwed up along the way..

Luke 18:9-14 (New International Version)

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Gary said...

Ecclesial implications of "Marriage Equality"???

A marriage must have a husband and a wife. A husband must be a man, and a wife must be a woman. That is the way God designed it.

How can those "churches" who are unhappy with marriage, as God has defined it, justify changing what God has ordained, and still pretend that they are "doing God's will"?

The primary tactic seems to be that they redefine who God is. The "God" they believe in is one that will allow the changes they want. Not only allow them, but bless them. The problem these religious people face is, that the real God does not like to be redefined. And sooner or later, reality will have to be confronted. :) Have a nice day.

Glenn said...

Dear Gary,

I found your latest post regarding why marriage must be between a woman and a man very convincing. I learned in school about Occam's razor and, "That is the way God designed it," is unarguably the simplest answer and therefore the correct one. What bugs me is that people consistently forget about Genesis 2:25.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

If God designed it this way, I think that there should be a constitutional amendment requiring people to get married in the nude like it was originally intended. I know that it would be an uphill battle because of all the lobby money that the democrats get from Randazzos and President Tuxedo but I think that the real Christians ought to at least get the idea out there.

David Mc said...

"The primary tactic seems to be that they redefine who God is."

Wrong, we redefine who people are. The male-female roles have changed Gary. This is a natural course for human society, and a positive one.

:) Have a nice day.

It's cool how being non-anonymous makes one nicer.

Pastor Randy Bryson said...

My name got posted on these comments so I guess I will make a commit. I am not coming on here to convince anyone but to reiterate what Jesus said, which is very applicable for you unbelievers. Here is what He said, Except ye Repent ye shall all likewise perish. This is the same Jesus that is coming back with a vengeance against all of you that know not God, and have not obeyed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. You shall be punished with everlasting destruction. So repent while you can, if you can. Consider yourselves warned. Pastor Randy Bryson. warningsofwrath.com

Gary said...

David,

You have no right to redefine who people are. And no right to change the roles of men and women. And no right to redefine marriage. People have not changed since Adam. Unrepentant reprobates have always thought that they know more than God does. And they have always gotten the same result: damnation.

John said...

Gary and Randy,

Here is the warning which I think Scripture holds for you:

24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? ... 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matt 25:24-26; 29-30

You will likely meet the harsh and wrathful God you seek. If you don't, if God is loving and gracious and forgiving, will you be disappointed?

John

John said...

Gary and Randy,

Here is the warning which I think Scripture holds for you:

24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? ... 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matt 25:24-26; 29-30

You will likely meet the harsh and wrathful God you seek. If you don't, if God is loving and gracious and forgiving, will you be disappointed?

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

OK, I think it's time for me to step in and call for a moratorium on the conversation, which has degenerated much farther than I had hoped.

I know what Gary thinks of me and those like me. I also know what others think of Gary and those like him.

But the cycle of debate that has gone on concerning this issue and other issues isn't going anywhere. What I hoped would be a conversation among those wrestling with the question of gay marriage and its implications for the church has become simply another debate as to who is righteous and who is not. So, let's call this a day and move on to another issue (even if its a related one).

So, here's my ruling -- Gary, you're welcome to participate, but I think we all know what you think about gays, evolution, and any number of other issues. As for those who disagree with Gary, I ask that you politely disengage from discussion with him. If necessary I'll intervene by deleting all conversations in one direction or another.

Sorry to have to do this, but this constant bickering isn't helping others enter into the conversation.

david Mc said...

Ahh, John, the double post. The modern evil eye?

Thanks for the modern warning Randy. Since my eyes are open, I'm not sure I can close them again- but I appreciate your concern.

Someone called Anonymous posted your name. We don't know who he/ she/ it is. We seldom drop names unrequested. On the plus side, Bob will get a hit every-time you're "Googled". Balanced "Googles" are good. Or do you "Bling"?

David Mc said...

Oh, Bob, I didn't see your post. I'll make myself scarce now.

Gary said...

Cornwall,

Is anybody really "wrestling with gay marriage and its implications for the church"? It seems like everyone has made up their minds. Everybody on your side seems to be for it. And, of course, Christians are against it.

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