Southern Religion

Richard Land, the culture warriors and DOMA (why they’ve lost)

While Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land and others were laboring to organize a Defense of Marriage Act counterattack by the culture warriors, public opinion deserted them. Capping “a long-term shift in attitudes,” same-sex marriage enjoys 53 percent support in this country, the ABC News/Washington Post Poll found. Whereas only “Forty-four percent are opposed.”

The shift in public attitudes which led to this is rapid, unrelenting and across the board:

While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.

Adults 50 and older remain more skeptical, but even that’s seen change. Most notably, 33 percent of seniors now say gay marriage should be legal, up from 18 percent five years ago.

Trends among other groups are equally striking. Compared with five years ago support for gay marriage has grown by 10 points among women, but by 18 points among men; it’s now at parity. Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.

As for religious groups for which opposition to same-sex marriage is doctrinaire — wherein one finds Land’s core support group and the choir to which he preaches — the shift in attitudes is equally unrelenting:

Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.

It is inopportune, Richard, to negotiate a truce in the culture war over same-sex marriage. Not however, as you and your allies argue, because a majority of Americans support fallback to the intolerance of a bygone era. They don’t and the trends suggest that you will see the time when a majority of your target audience doesn’t either.


March 18, 2011 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Richard Land, the culture warriors and DOMA (why they’ve lost)

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.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Law, Politics | , , | 1 Comment

Catholic Church making adjustments to DC Marriage Act [Update: Way cleared to act to take effect]

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has declared that it “will be in compliance” with the requirements of the city’s same-sex marriage act [.pdf], which takes effect Wednesday, and that the church will as a result maintain a quarter of a million dollars worth of social services contracts.

Some members of the religious right made a last ditch pitch to Congress, asking passage of legislation requiring a public vote — a strategy already rejected by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics [.pdf]. DC Superior Court refused prevent the act from going into effect.

Reversal on appeal is not expected, and Congress is not expected to act.

What adjustments the Archdiocese of Washington will make is unclear. It has already shut down its adoption and foster-care services, transferring “seven staff members, 43 children and their families, and the 35 foster families” to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) for future administration.

Placing children with same-sex couples has been a sticking point elsewhere because it involves a direct collision with matters of Catholic doctrine, but successful adjustment in administration of other services does not seem unlikely.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts “denied a last-minute request Tuesday afternoon for a stay of the District’s same-sex marriage law, disappointing opponents of the measure, who wanted to bring it before city voters in a referendum,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday afternoon.

Apparently, D.C. can begin accepting applications by gay couples for marriage licenses tomorrow morning.

Read the rest of the story here.

Catholic Charities denies coverage to spouses of all new hires

Catholic Charities adaptation is to deny benefits, thus escaping the possibility of providing coverage to the spouses of gay marrieds.

In a March 1 letter, President and CEO Edward J. Orzechowski informed employees that health benefits will be denied the spouses of all new employees, although coverage for those who are employees as of March 1, will be unaffected.

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Law, Religion, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Catholic Church making adjustments to DC Marriage Act [Update: Way cleared to act to take effect]

‘Good the Mormons! Shame on [Catholics]’

Eduardo Peñalver, Cornell Law School professor who teaches a course on Catholic social thought and the law, writes for dotCommweal:

The Mormon Church throws its support behind a Salt Lake City law prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in housing and employment (HT Andrew Sullivan)
. . .

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. threatens to stop providing services for the homeless in response to a pending DC move to permit gay marriage, apparently (according to reports) because the law might prevent the Church from discriminating against homosexual couples in the provision of employee benefits.
. . .

Good for the Mormons! Shame on us.

His piece briefly dissects the Catholic church’s legal arguments on behalf of itself in D.C. and finds nothing of value.
Read it here.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Law | , , , | Comments Off on ‘Good the Mormons! Shame on [Catholics]’

So much heat, so little light over D.C. Catholic standoff

Still researching our own assessment, we find ourselves in agreement with tmatt at GetReligion:

Read the top of this A1 Washington Post report about the collision between the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and government officials here in the District of Columbia. Now ask this question: Is the heart of this story (a) civil rights for a new protected class of gays and lesbians, (b) religious liberty in America or (c) both?

The answer, of course, is “both.”

And more, with unanswered questions galore, even for those of us who have been following the story.

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Law | , , | Comments Off on So much heat, so little light over D.C. Catholic standoff

How hungry the homeless for the holidays in D.C.?

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC has threatened to withdraw its social services from the District of Columbia (DC) absent change in the proposed same-sex marriage law. This amid criticism (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), applause(1, 2) and some | neutrality.

The impact would be considerable, as the Washington Post reports:

Catholic Charities, the church’s social services arm, is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations that partner with the District. It serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington’s homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church. City leaders said the church is not the dominant provider of any particular social service, but the church pointed out that it supplements funding for city programs with $10 million from its own coffers.

After the DC City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary narrowed the exemption for religious freedom under the bill legalizing marriage between same-sex couples, the archdiocese issued a press release which says:

Under the bill, religious organizations do not have to participate in the “solemnization or celebration” of a same-sex marriage ceremony. An earlier version of the bill also exempted them from “the promotion of marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.” The revised language significantly narrows that exemption to the “promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats.”
As a result, religious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy.

City Councilman David A. Catania said he would rather end the city’s relationship with Catholic charities than give in to the Church’s demands.

Thus far it appears the D.C. City Council agrees with Atrios:

Good. Someone else who [cares] can run them with federal tax dollars.

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Economy, Law, Politics | , , , , | Comments Off on How hungry the homeless for the holidays in D.C.?

Lutherans move toward full celebration of same-gender relationships

(c) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

(c) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rather than embrace self-destructive hypocrisy, a task force of the 4.7-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has proposed to celebrate same-gender relationships and allow homosexuals in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

They propose to avoid the Southern Baptist spectacle of serial inquisition by respecting the decisions of congregations and synods whose understanding of scripture leads them to disagree [download the .pdf statement].

A four-step process is recommended for dealing with the recommendation at the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis in August.

  1. If the assembly rejects the first measure recognizing monogamous gay unions, the remaining three will die.
  2. If the assembly approves, members will be asked if they want to permit clergy in committed same-gender relationships to work in churches that invite them to serve.
  3. That done, the assembly will be asked to approve respecting the bound conscience of those who disagree.
  4. Finally, the assembly would be asked to approve a policy incorporating flexibility in the decision-making process that allows gay clergy in relationships to serve as clergy.

Inevitably, more later about this most recent reformation among Protestants.


Only a few years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church was still disciplining and firing gay and lesbian clergy.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Lutherans move toward full celebration of same-gender relationships