• Homosexuality •
August 26, 2005
Unwilling to risk the financial and membership losses that would surely result from an open embrace of homosexuality, mainline denominations inch their way towards a progressive, if inevitable, embrace of homosexual practice. This progressive embrace of the homosexual agenda is propelled by activists who offer various rationales and arguments for the normalization of homosexual relationships and behaviors, which, over time, are intended to wear down conservative resistance and convince fence-straddlers of the inevitability of homosexual advance. The emergence of a new book, What God Has Joined Together?: A Christian Case for Gay Marriage, offers a summary of the arguments now common among the proponents of same-sex marriage.
August 13, 2005
Meeting yesterday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] turned back a proposal that would have allowed non-celibate homosexuals to serve as ministers. As The New York Times reports today, In an indication of the deep split over homosexuality in the church, which with five million members is the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, the vote on gay clergy members at the church’s assembly in Orlando, Fla., divided almost evenly, with 49 percent in favor to 51 percent opposed. To pass, the measure required a two-thirds majority. The assembly also rejected a measure that would have allowed churches to bless same-sex unions.
July 26, 2005
The Church of England is trying its best to avoid achieving a clear position on the issue of homosexuality, even for clergy. Yesterday, the church’s House of Bishops found itself publicly embarrassed by its own statements, even as it attempted to clarify whether ordained ministers of the Church of England could enter into homosexual “civil partnerships.”
July 7, 2005
“The Presbyterian Church (USA) is at a crossroads,” declares a recently-released document from a group of concerned Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Lay Committee [PLC] is a venerable group of conservative Presbyterians who have been working for a Reformation within their denomination for many years. Even so, the PCUSA has been moving steadily leftward, and is set to debate the issue of human sexuality yet again. The PLC knows that there are even deeper issues at stake.
July 6, 2005
A Manchester, England financial institution, The Co-operative Bank, has asked a Christian organization, Christian Voice, to close its accounts because its convictions on homosexuality are “incompatible” with the position of the bank.
Here are excerpts from the bank’s statement, as quoted by BBC News: It has come to the bank’s attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation. . . . This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders.
The bank insisted that the decision had nothing to do with religion, but was made “purely on the issue of diversity.” So, what about Christian beliefs about homosexuality? Does the bank have no Muslim account holders? Will they be treated similarly?
The bank charges that the Christian Voice organization is an extreme group that has made scandalous claims against homosexuals. The organization came to the attention of the British public over its condemnation of the BBC for its plans to broadcast Jerry Springer — The Opera, which it described as blasphemous.
In a statement released after the BBC news story, the bank made this claim: We accept that everyone has the right to freedom of thought on religion; however, we do not believe that this entitles people to actively encourage and practice discrimination. In other words, the organization can hold to its beliefs, but cannot act on them?
Here we face another case of using the word discrimination as propaganda. All sane persons discriminate. We do not hire infants as police officers, child molesters as babysitters, or high school drop-outs as brain surgeons. Each of these decisions is an act of discrimination. In the course of a normal day, most persons make dozens of discriminatory decisions. The moral issue is whether an act of discrimination is right and proper. This bank is, to turn its own phrase, actively encouraging and practicing discrimination against a Christian organization — even as it condemns discrimination in all forms.
This news story is hard to take at face value. It is hard to believe that a financial institution can get away with this kind of overt religious discrimination. Who’s next?
LINKS TO UNCOOPERATION: News story from BBC News. See also the bank’s statement, posted on its Web site and a statement from Christian Voice, from its Web site.
July 5, 2005
Observers of Christianity in America have suggested in recent years that the most interesting controversies of our times are those within denominations. That generalization may be generally accurate, but the other big story is the great and widening division between liberal and conservative denominations. In reality, these two visions of Christianity represent two different religions. This was apparent to J. Gresham Machen and others early in the twentieth century. Now, it must be apparent to any honest observer.
Monday’s vote by the United Church of Christ [UCC] endorsing same-sex marriage makes this point clear. The UCC has been moving steadily leftward over the last several decades, and the main trajectory of the denomination has been consistent in rejecting the authority of Scripture. Yesterday’s vote did not emerge from a vacuum. A line of doctrinal accommodation and theological compromise necessarily produces such a development. Without the norming authority of Scripture, anything becomes possible, if not inevitable. If the Bible does not serve as the authoritative norm, anything can be normalized–even what the BIble condemns.
The Rev. John Thomas, the UCC’s president and general minister told a press conference after the group’s vote, “On this July 4, the United Church of Christ has courageously acted to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay — of same-gender — couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages.” This language is characteristic of those who would defy biblical authority and forge their own versions of the Christian faith. Just label a rebellion against Scripture and two thousand years of church tradition as courageous.
The two rival visions of Christianity now represented in American Protestantism operate out of radically divergent worldviews. The dividing issues range across the spectrum, including even the concept of truth and the meaning of language. Nevertheless, the fundamental line of division is the issue of authority. In the end, this issue determines all others.
DOCUMENT THE TRAGEDY: Coverage in The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ABC News, UCC Newsroom [Atlanta].
July 4, 2005
Those watching the United Church of Christ [UCC] know that the denomination has been moving steadily leftward for decades. Nevertheless, the official endorsement of same-sex marriage represents something genuinely historic and genuinely tragic. Such a move represents far more than a statement of liberal commitment to the normalization of homosexuality — it represents a repudiation of the Bible’s mandate for heterosexual marriage.
The denial of biblical authority leads to a moment of decision on marriage that an affirmation of biblical authority would have prevented in the first place. Now, news out of Atlanta indicates that a key policy committee of the church has just given its enthusiastic support to a resolution calling for same-sex marriage. An Associated Press report released just hours ago states, “A committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval Sunday to a resolution that moved the church one step closer to becoming the largest Christian denomination to endorse same-sex marriage.” The denomination’s General Synod is scheduled to act on the resolution Monday in Atlanta.
The committee’s vote was so overwhelming that some reports characterized it as “nearly unanimous.” The group turned down a resolution calling for marriage to be defined as the union of a man and a woman.
There are those in the UCC who are resisting the tide, defending marriage and biblical norms of sexuality. Speaking on behalf of the resolution that defined marriage as a heterosexual institution, Bill Boylan of Massachusetts said, “If we have in our hands the word of God, the only loving thing is to speak it.” The Rev. Brett Becker, pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Cibolo, Texas, told the Associated Press that, “Throughout the Scriptures marriage is always defined as being between one man and one woman.”
In the 1970s, the UCC became one of the first denominations to ordain an openly-homosexual minister. In one sense, the endorsement of homosexual marriage is just an extension of the logic the leadership of the denomination had accepted long ago.
Some threaten to pull out of the church if the General Synod endorses same-sex marriage. But the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer of Cleveland, Ohio responded: “I really don’t think this is going to be a devastatingly divisive issue for the church.” He added: “I hope people will just take a deep breath if this is passed by the General Synod.” It will be interesting to see if, instead of taking a deep breath, at least some decide to take a walk.
June 30, 2005
Spain–once a bastion of Catholic culture and commitment–has now embraced same-sex marriage. “Spain became the third country to legalize gay marriage Thursday in a parliament vote that left gay activists blowing kisses to lawmakers and the powerful Catholic Church issuing veiled calls for defiance,” reported the Associated Press.
From the same news story: “It is a historic day for the world’s homosexuals. We have been fighting for many years,” said Beatriz Gimeno, a longtime leader of the gay rights movement in Spain. “Now comes the hardest part, which is changing society’s mentality.” The report added that Gimeno “blinked back tears as she hugged her partner, Boti Garcia.”
June 30, 2005
The Canadian House of Commons passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage on Tuesday. The 158-133 vote puts Canada in line to become only the third country to legalize homosexual marriage, joining Belgium and the Netherlands. According to press reports, the bill needs only to be passed by the Canadian Senate (where it is supported by a wide margin) and to receive royal assent (which is considered a formality).
The Vancouver Sun celebrated the passage of the bill with an editorial claiming that the move would “enhance Canada’s reputation as a human rights leader.”
Take a look at how the paper addressed the issue of religious liberty:
Indeed, there’s reason to believe the new law will be beneficial, not just for gays and lesbians, but for their children and for society, as it recognizes and formalizes the commitment of gays to take care of each other and their families.
And though it might not be readily apparent, the law will also enhance religious freedom. Although not all religious groups oppose the law — in fact, the United Church, the second largest religious body in Canada, supports same-sex unions — many were among its most vociferous opponents.
In addition to their belief that the government shouldn’t formally recognize what they regard as sinful behaviour, many religious people fear that their churches will eventually be forced to perform gay marriages against their will.
These opponents proposed a variety of amendments to the bill to protect religious officials’ right to refuse to perform gay marriages. But as the Supreme Court of Canada made clear in Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, those amendments are generally beyond the jurisdiction of Parliament, since the provinces have authority over the solemnization of marriage.
Nevertheless, the court also maintained that “the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.”
The court further stated that churches could not be compelled to permit the use of church buildings for gay marriages or to otherwise assist in such unions.
Consequently, the new law actually broadens religious freedom because, while not infringing on the right of religions to refuse to perform gay marriages, it will make it possible for them to choose to sanctify same-sex marriages that are, for the first time, fully recognized in law.
Will these protections last? There is very real reason to believe that they may not last for long. Canadian “hate speech” laws have already been used to intimidate churches and Christian organizations from teaching that homosexuality is a sin. In a now-infamous exchange before the Canadian Parliament, the nation’s attorney general once refused to answer when asked if the Bible would be considered hate speech. There is big trouble up north.
SEE ALSO: Gay Marriage Around the Globe, BBC News; Gay Marriage Cements Canada’s Liberal Reputation, Reuters; A Landmark Win for Gay Couples, The Toronto Star.
June 30, 2005
With a big vote looming in just days, the Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ [UCC] endorsed same-sex marriage in a June 28 address to the UCC’s Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
From his address: Here is what I believe: I believe that the General Synod should affirm the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to have their covenanted relationships recognized by the state as marriages equal in name, privileges, and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples. I believe our local churches, as they are able, should move toward the development of marriage equality policies so that the same liturgical and pastoral blessing and discipline may be offered all entering into covenanted relationships.
Another passage: All across this country marriage amendments have been proposed and passed which, while purporting to merely affirm traditional views of marriage, in most cases have been used to demean gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, to vilify their relationships, and in some cases to deny or restrict their full civil rights. All across this country Christians have joined this crusade adding their own voice to words and deeds that wound many of our neighbors. A word of hope, affirmation, and grace from the church is, I believe, urgently needed in our day. If that word cannot come from the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, where else will it come from?The UCC also faces a vote on a resolution affirming the lordship and divinity of Jesus Christ as it meets in Atlanta, July 1-5 [see my weblog article posted June 18, 2005]. The marriage issue is expected to be up for a vote on Monday, July 4. The full text of Thomas’ speech is available online. Anyone looking for proof that liberal denominations are capitulating to the logic and demands of the homosexual movement needs only to look at developments in the UCC.