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.