To date, there are four American Christian denominations that officially accept homosexuality in their clergy: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and the United Church of Christ.
In July, the Episcopalian Church became the largest U.S. denomination to officially sanction same-sex unions by authorizing a “blessings” ceremony.
Author and media analyst Paul Hartman says the other denominations should follow suit. I am working on a Sunday package story on same-sex marriage, so this bit of news caught my eye.
I want to hear from clergy on this issue. Is the gay marriage issue evolving in your churches? Or are your congregations fairly settled in their current views?
“It’s one of those issues where everyone has an opinion, one way or another,” says Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of “The Kairos,” a five-star-rated suspense novel that imagines Jesus Christ as gay.
“One of the many roles that Jesus modeled for us was that of social reformer,” Hartman said. “He championed the equality of outcasts – prostitutes, beggars, widows, orphans, lepers. He ignored their ‘pre-existing conditions’ and just loved ‘em. You don’t have to be a well-educated liberal today to be on the right side of history, you just have to follow Christ’s example.”
Hartman cites four reasons why American churches should accept homosexuality and gay marriage:
• In support of family and monogamy: The current estimate of U.S. citizens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) is 12 million. Due to lingering stigmas, that self-reported number is likely only a fraction of the actual. Even 12 million is a significant portion of the population who have been forced to live on the sidelines and denied the rights and responsibilities that other Americans enjoy, including marriage, and the adoption of needy children. Such denial of freedoms for sexual minorities runs counter to the Christian belief in family values. Indeed, there are many theologians who argue homosexuality is one of God’s diverse gifts in His creation of families.
• Avoiding hypocrisy and elitism: Like so many topics in the Bible, its few brief references to same-sex relations beg for intelligent interpretation. The original Bible writings, Hartman argues, never used the word “homosexual.” Translators introduced that term. In context, biblical “clobber passages” condemn “unnatural relations,” meaning God finds it an abomination when straight persons ignore their nature and have sex with partners of their own sex. Logically, people whose natural orientation is toward their own gender would have “unnatural relations” if they’re intimate with opposite sex partners. Another example is when people parrot what they’ve heard about the sin of Sodom being same-sex relations. They don’t realize that the Bible itself repeatedly and clearly defines that city’s wicked sins as inhospitality and unloving acts toward others. That’s a charge some make against churches which discriminate against members of the GLBT community. “When will we learn?” Hartman asks. “Christ’s message is inclusive, not exclusive.”
• Already accepted in three denominations: Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians – none of them wildly radical sects of Christians – now ordain openly gay as well as openly straight clergy. While it’s nothing new for denominations to disagree, it should be noteworthy that three mainstream Christian churches have accepted and embraced gay people.
• Most importantly, “Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.” Modern-day Pharisees love to emulate God’s role as judge more than Christ’s model of loving caregiver to the littlest, the lowest, the last and the least.
Let me know what you think about gay marriage from a faith perspective. I can be reached at 771-2024, or by email at email@example.com.