Churchly pain & same-sex marriage in DC (as elsewhere)
Pastors may not have noticed when by a vote of 59-36, the Senate rejected an amendment to the health care reconciliation bill that would have stopped same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia, pending a referendum.
Several pastors whose denominations oppose or are undecided about same-sex marriage may have been wrestling with how to meet the demands of conscience and the yearning for marriage ceremonies by homosexual couples in their flock.
Daniel Burke of the Religion News Service wrote of Methodist Rev. Mary Kay Totty, who plans to risk church discipline by performing same-sex marriages at Dumbarton United Methodist Church (UMC). She told ABC 7 News:
We will celebrate love and loyalty wherever it’s found. And love and loyalty are the same, whether it’s shared between a man and a woman or two men and two women.
The UMC is unequivocal about same-sex unions. Linda Bloom of the United Methodist News Service wrote in November:
The denomination’s top legislative body, the General Conference, first took a stand on the incompatibility of Christianity and homosexual practice in 1972. Since then, Dell said, “the General Conference has moved steadily to more and more explicitly conservative positions.”
The Rev. Dean Snyder, whose Foundry UMC the Clintons attended while in the White House, is one of 19 current and former UMC clergy in DC who support Totty, without taking the final step of agreeing themselves to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination, has no clear policy. What they have, is an open issue:
The ELCA has no policy on the blessing of same-sex unions. In 1993 the Conference of Bishops (65 synodical bishops elected by congregations on their territories) stated that there was no basis in Scripture or tradition for an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of same-sex unions, but that “Nevertheless, we express trust in and will continue dialogue with those pastors and congregations who are in ministry with gay and lesbian persons, and affirm their desire to explore the best ways to provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.” The Conference of Bishops provides advice and counsel but is not an ELCA legislative body.
As a result, Bishop Richard Graham of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod says, “This is a live issue for us.” And when ELCA pastors have asked him for permission to marry gay couples, he has granted it, contingent on the approval of their congregations. But that is an interim approach until the Washington synod draws formal guidelines.
The Rev. Amy Butler of Calvary Baptist Church, plans to marry same-sex couples and faces no such denominational obstacles.
They’re Baptist, you see, but not Southern Baptist Convention (where disfellowshipping usually follows policies of gay acceptance). The larger Baptist groups with which they do affiliate [1, 2, 3] are most unlikely to act against them, and the diaconate adopted an unequivocal “statement of equal access affirmation[.pdf].” Among other things, it says:
After prayerful discussion, a smaller group came up with the statement listed above. We felt this statement captures the spirit of our church at this time, that all members of Calvary are welcome to participate in the life of the church as the Spirit moves them, including as members of boards or in other leadership opportunities. In addition, we agreed that all members of our church should have full access to all pastoral services.
Passionate warnings against the “acid” of theological liberalization issue from Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his peers. Yet public support for same sex marriage, even in California where it was recently rejected at the polls, continues its long shift toward general approval. With church and denominational policies moving, often quite fractiously, with apparent inexorability in the same direction.
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