October 22, 2020

The Balance Has Tipped


Comments on this post are now closed. Thank you for a good discussion.

. . .

It was a good week for same-sex marriage advocates.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to review cases about the issue in states including Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. But the effects are wider. Because the decision also affects federal appeals court cases, same-sex marriage is now legal in 30 out of 50 states.

On Tuesday here in Indiana, one of the states which had appealed to SCOTUS, state officials ordered county clerks across Indiana to remove all public obstacles to conducting and recognizing same-sex marriage.

With a majority of states now having legal same-sex marriage, it appears the balance has tipped. Brad Heath, in an article at RNS, quotes Yale law professor William Eskridge:

By letting gay and lesbian marriages go forward in 11 other states, the justices almost certainly made it harder to reverse course in the future, Yale law professor William Eskridge said. If they do, he said, the court would have to do more than simply prohibit some couples from marrying; it would have to invalidate marriages that have already taken place. “It will become very hard for the Supreme Court to take that back,” Eskridge said.

Recognizing that this will raise a new set of questions for churches and pastors, our Indiana-Kentucky Synod Bishop, William Gafkjen directed those who are rostered leaders (or in the process) to renew our acquaintance with the ELCA’s decisions regarding these matters.

There is no perfect “position” about all of this, but I think the ELCA has done as good a job as any in trying to be faithful both to the biblical witness about sexuality and its call to do everything possible to maintain unity among believers, even when we disagree.

church_logoI commend to you again our ELCA Social Statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” Pages 18-21 are particularly helpful now. This social statement neither endorses nor forbids same-gender marriage but “commits itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationships.” This document acknowledges the diversity among us regarding same-gender relationships, recognizes the historic tradition of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, and goes on to say that “On the basis of conscience-bound faith, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage. They surround such couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others. They believe same-gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children, and other dependents and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.”

• • •

Back in 2012, I wrote a post that discussed the ELCA position more fully. You can read it here:

How the ELCA dealt with the issue of homosexuality

How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?


  1. Because the decision also affects federal appeals court cases, same-sex marriage is now legal in 30 out of 50 states.

    Soon to be 39:


    “That much became clear on Monday, when the Court declined to hear appeals of decisions that overturned bans on gay marriage in five states. Taking into account all of the states in the three circuits that produced those cases, the Court’s decision not to intervene raised the number of states that recognize gay marriage from 19 to 30.

    “On Tuesday a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit added five more states to that category, and a pending decision from the 6th Circuit could increase the total to 39. Almost overnight, gay marriage has spread to most of the country.”

  2. And maybe not too long after to be 42 States:


    5th Circuit Court


    The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit covers three states: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The circuit court is the highest federal court within that circuit – although, of course, its decisions are subject to potential review by the Supreme Court – and so a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for a case out of one of the states would be binding to each of the states within the circuit.

    This fall, at least one case – Texas’ De Leon v. Perry – will be considered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. On May 21, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs’ motion for an expedited appeal, but a briefing schedule has not yet been set. Read more about the De Leon case, and see the other federal cases in each of the 5th Circuit cases making the case for marriage.

    De Leon v. Perry

    What’s Happening:

    On February 26, 2014, a federal judge in Texas ruled that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. The judge also issued a stay on the ruling pending appeal, so same-sex couples were not immediately allowed to receive marriage licenses. The plaintiffs in the case are represented by private counsel. The ruling was quickly appealed by the state of Texas, and on May 21, a request for an expedited appeal process was denied.

    The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to schedule oral arguments in the appeal.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And maybe not too long after to be 42 States:

      Life, the Universe, and Everything…

  3. We continue, as we always have, to welcome all manner of sinners into our pews. No questions asked.

    But we will not ever affirm the sin of homosexuality, or any other sin, for anyone in our pews.

    • At least try to distinguish between “the sin of” (sic) homosexuality and same-sex sexual activity.

      • Right. The activity is sinful.

        But whether or not they happen to be active, we will not capitulate to their demands (it happened to us in the past) to affirm their sexuality.

        We had a longtime member of the congregation. On the church council. Active in reading the Scriptures on Sunday morning. No problem whatsoever. Then he came out to the pastor and wanted the pastor’s blessing.
        The pastor said that he would have to go elsewhere if that’s what he wanted.

        • And this is the struggle of the parishioner: Continue to keep secrets (which always leads to dysfunction) and miss out on the opportunity to be fully known by your community of faith, or come out and risk rejection.

          • I understand the tension between welcoming inquiry/confession and drawing lines, even in my tradition where I don’t quite understand everything yet am expected to uphold it. And I also understand why many would fear severe relational consequences if they came out (and we’ve just dealt with this in our church). But aside from the churches where you would be ostracized for even struggling with certain kinds of sins (whom the sinner is far better without anyways), I believe that most theologically conservative congregations only reject the sinner for the belief that something is not sinful. One really ought not fear rejection of a church whose teaching one rejects.

          • We all have our secrets. Some we will let out to others.

            The point is that the church can never be in the ‘sin affirmation’ business.

          • “The point is that the church can never be in the ‘sin affirmation’ business.”


          • Going to push back on that ‘sin affirmation’ bit. Do you (all) hold to the view that post-salvation everyone is instantly sinless and most sins are now voluntary? Do people, over time, stop sinning and start living more like Christ? Are sins judged differently based on how quickly the person can “stop sinning”? Is sanctification progressive, linear, exponential, permanent, voluntary, etc?

            Sometimes, we need to let people sin, and expect them to sin, so they will continue to grow in Christ. Focusing on the sin is never the answer. Let people sin. Don’t kick them out for growing and changing, it can and will take time.

            This isn’t sin affirming. This is Christ affirming and acknowledging the truth of our theology, instead of jumping to the end result we want to see and present to others.

          • Speaking of similar topics, anyone see Rachel Held Evan’s tweet of the Russell Moore article where Moore tells a trans woman that “he” should change?

          • Sometimes, we need to let people sin

            …as if anybody needed permission… 😛

            Yes, focusing on sin can lead to the “pink elephant syndrome.” (Nobody here is picturing a pink Elephant in their minds, right?) But it is another issue when a church begins to justify certain practices and decide that they are no longer sinful. ELCA has basically punted in this regard, saying “your congregation can decide for itself.” Democratic morality at its finest.

            • ELCA, IMO did not “punt.” They recognized diversity of interpretation and differences of opinion within the communion. In that light they did not hand down a magisterial ruling on which interpretation was correct. In this, they sought to honor the priesthood of the believer. On the other hand, they said whatever one’s interpretation of same-sex practice, they affirmed that such practices are only acceptable within traditional standards of morality — lifelong, monogamous relationships. They also recognized heterosexual marriage as something different and special because of its place in Scripture and tradition.

              You may not agree with this decision, but I think it is wrong to call it a punt. It is an attempt to balance a number of different factors and maintain unity among disagreements.

          • CM and Miguel, i think the ELCA’s decision is vety much like the stance taken by the Anglican community (some sectors excepted), in that collegiality and unity in diversity/freedom in non-essentials,not to mention charity for all (ideally).

            There are more than a few lgbtqi people who hold to a rigorous stance on sexual ethics. I think that it is a huge mistake to assume that people whose sexual orientation or gender identity is not whwt we assume as the norm to all think, believe and act alike.

            I mean, wouldn’t you think it ridiculous if that same standard was applied to all straight people, with no exceptions allowed? I can’t speak for anyone else, but i know thwt i wouldn’t exactly be happy about it. Trying to put ourseles in others’ shoes is absolutely necessary in this case (and others like it, imo).

          • Uh oh – sorry for grammatical errors and such in my latest. Ammsure you get the drift, though.

        • Who, exactly, do you mean when you say “they,” Steve? Because more than likely, some of “them” are people who sit in the pews with you, are actively involved in your church – and afraid to be honest with those who say “they” and “them,” because they know all too well what will happen if they disclose even the tiniest hint of their sexual orientation.

          Lord, have mercy on us all.

          • Of course “they” are “us”.

            We have gay folks in our congregation right now. But they don’t wish to make an issue of it or stand on a soap box.

            Some of my sins would make your hair curl. But I’m not proud of them nor do I advocate them or wish to have others accept them. I have confessed some to my pastor, and others I have not, but only to the Lord.

          • Perfect love casts out fear. As long as there’s even a hint of the possibility of being publicly kicked out, condemned, rebuked, etc, by being honest with your pastor…there is no true love there.

            And I’ve found the best way to ditch that fear is just to leave the church and those who would place that fear upon you.

          • Stuart B – yep!

    • Faulty O-Ring says

      I hope they take away your tax exemption.

      • OldProphet says

        “I hope they take away your tax exemption”. Yeah, that will fix them! While there at it, lets have our all knowing and wonderful government use that threat to stop preachers from speaking about abortion,or child abuse. Adultery should be off the table too. Maybe the government should just regulate all church morality! Since when did the State become the Kingdom of God? Iis the goosedtep going too be part of a.church service? I gues Bonhoefffer. Was an idiot for standing up to the German state? By the way, I have gay customers in my business so bigotry is not my issue. I live in a state where a state amendment to legalize gay marriage was voted down but then overturned by the states Supreme Court! So yeah, its a wonderful thing to let the State be in oversight of the Church.

        • Faulty O-Ring says

          Oh, cry me a river. Why should I have to subsidize your church? The original idea behind the exemption–that churches obviously contribute to society enough as it is–is no longer true. In the USA, they can lose their exemption for political activity–why not for bigotry?

          • Enlighten me: In what ways did the church use to contribute to society that it no longer does?

          • FOR, I get that you have strong opinions here. Please moderate the heat so we can concentrate better on seeking the light.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            that churches obviously contribute to society enough as it is–is no longer true.
            First of all, that is probably not true. Many historians agree that tax exemption was granted to reduce the political influence of churches. Second, churches are still the primary source of charity in our communities; it is counter-intuitive to claim that churches who provide social services should not receive tax breaks, while non-religious charities do – unless one is operating under the assumption that only “secular” behavior should be financially incentivized…which is itself a religious claim. Third, the idea that the government can’t or shouldn’t provide tax subsidies to a group based on their ethical standards is absurd on its face. That would be sort of a direct definition of fascism. You are entitled to your opinion, but I believe the thinking people on this thread will take you a bit more seriously after you take the time to think through your position(s).

        • Old Prophet I know as to what you speak. I was working in an openly gay man’s house and that night as I walked the mountain in prayer I was asking about him. God gave me specific words for him. God told me to tell him he loved him and all the things that have hurt him were not from Him. That if he would look to Him he would speak things into him He has longed to tell him.

          I was very nervous as always and hurried through it as always. The countenance of the man changed immediately as if the greatest burden was lifted. I am not his judge and have not even the smallest of right to be. I know and have felt God’s love for the man in Christ Jesus. What happens at this point is not up to me. I believe that if a man who is a Pastor has a responsibility to God and men. He must pray and be with God on the marriage thing. I don’t believe a civil union is ordained by God but all our actions have consequences and making promises to other human beings and not keeping them are wrong.

          We have a judge and crying me a river is judgeable in the context it is delivered. Of course most things are when the love of Christ doesn’t permeate them. If you like me OP have felt the fear of what comes next in such statements pay them no mind they have nothing in Christ. Let us keep going and finish well. The people of Jesus’s time would of have Him be king and kill all the Romans and who ever else was not in line we have to carry the same burden.

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says

            Thank you, W. You have come very close to the beating heart of this matter.

            That we would all pray more and dispute less.

          • God told me to tell him he loved him and all the things that have hurt him were not from Him. That if he would look to Him he would speak things into him He has longed to tell him.

            All well and good, but it still looks to the gay man as a project, something to be changed, altered, converted.

            How about just love them and serve them? Be their friend? Or does there need to be a daily reminder of “you are living in sin” or something?

            Guess what I’m saying is…don’t ignore what God has ALREADY told us to do in favor of “God tell me what to say to convert this sinner”.

          • Stuart I don’t have projects. I spent at that time many tears as God showed me such love. I don’t exactly like giving words. Whatever was the hurt was between them, not him and I. I have given hard words for people and believe me more often than not I feel like whale throw up. it makes me very nervous and sick to my stomach at times. The conviction is such that I have to push threw all of that. I only want to do things out of love for Him and that means being obedient. I onced ask a man who is close and an old iron worker why I have to give hard words and he said because we are able to do the hard work asked of us. I only want to draw closer to my Lord because He loves me so much and you too Stuart.

        • I have gay customers in my business so bigotry is not my issue.

          “Some of my best friends are black…”

          You employ them. Good. That’s a step above Chick Fil A but maybe a step or two below In N Out (another Christian business that’s well known yet somehow not controversial…).

          Are they your friends? Do you have them over for meals? Do they invite you to celebrate life with them?

          Hiring them is not a love claim.

          • Patrick Kyle says

            ‘Hiring them is not a love claim.’

            I believe he said he served them as customers. Faithfully exercising your vocation in service to someone is an act of love. Maybe if you dropped your ‘Social Justice Warrior’ rhetoric you would add more to the conversation than, ‘You go, Gays!’ and ‘Christians bad..’

          • OldProphet says

            Yes, I have gay friends. Yes, I’ve been in their homes. Gays should have the same rights as all of us. They pay taxes. They vote. They serve on juries. They die for our country
            I will never accept the fact that according to the Biblical definition of marriage as I see it, that gays can have the blessing of the church. That said a civil union, given by the state is totally correct. Every right as a citizen of this great country should be granted to all, no matter what religion, race, sex, or sexual orientation. There, my rant is done, LOL

          • Patrick – i honestly don’t see StuartB’s comments in that light at all – and not because i agree (or disagree) with him.

            Just sayin’…

          • GamerGate! lol

  4. Faulty O-Ring says

    “Recognizing that this will raise a new set of questions for churches and pastors…”

    No, it does not. Legally, you are still bound by state law regarding the legalities, but remain free to refuse to perform weddings for anybody you wish. The only difference is that you can no longer enforce your own bigotry on others in 3 out of 5 states.

    Imagine how the ELCA statement would read if the subject were miscegenation. Frankly, Christian churches have zero moral credibility to be pronouncing on such things.

    • FOR, I’m not saying I disagree with you, but I hear a question being raised. Are racism and upholding a particular sexual ethic within a covenant community equivalent?

      Do churches who represent a faith tradition have the right to uphold such a sexual ethic in their congregations with their members?

      • Faulty O-Ring says

        Organizations which practice bigotry of any kind should be allowed to exist, but receive no government funds or privileges (including tax exemptions).

        Let’s deconstruct your remarks.

        “racism” vs. “a particular sexual ethic”

        Why didn’t you write “a particular race-based ethic”? You wanted to make racism sound worse than homophobia, didn’t you?

        “covenant community”

        A compound of two b.s. words. When you say “covenant,” are you referring to an unverifiable theological body of law, or to the more down-to-earth laws and regulations that govern church politics? If the first, then well, anybody can claim to speak for God. If the second, then that’s a matter for lawyers and courts. “Community” is another abstraction, unless it refers to a specific body of members.

        “uphold a faith tradition”

        There is no “faith tradition” (singular) to be “upheld”–this is the lie of the conservative. Rather, each person picks and choose from among various evolving and contradictory strands of a mass of inherited lore. (Conservatives do this too, they’re just in denial.)

        “Do churches who represent a faith tradition have the right to uphold such a sexual ethic in their congregations with their members?”

        You make it sound thoroughly consensual, but we wouldn’t be having this conversation if there wasn’t a division on the issue. Don’t you really mean that your “sexual ethic” will be “upheld” (whatever that means” AGAINST their members?

        Realistically, some churches cannot be salvaged, while others will be fought over and could go either way. Perhaps the best outcome would be for religion to stop receiving so much deference.

        • Patrick Kyle says

          Take away the tax exemptions. Outlaw religious institutions that practice what you call ‘bigotry’ in reference to homosexual behavior. Doesn’t matter. I’ll be in the liturgy and hearing the Word somewhere the very next Sunday. My pastors will NEVER affirm that homosexual acts are not sinful. Neither will most Christians.

          Rage on, brother…. We ignore you and your ilk.

          • Same thing I said to FOR, Patrick. Best not to generate heat that keeps us from pursuing the light. Simple toning down of rhetoric will suffice.

          • Faulty O-Ring says

            Oh, Kyle doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that conservative Christians exist, just as it doesn’t bother me that the KKK exists (as long as they behave themselves–and anyway, having them in a group makes them easier to monitor).

            To look at it another way, would you say that the Islamic State represents a “faith tradition” and a “covenant community” which upholds a “particular sexual ethic,” and should be respected on this basis? To say that we should be encouraging the more moderate Muslims doesn’t raise any eyebrows, why should the policy towards Christians be any different?

        • I really am not sure why it is that someone disagreeing with the homosexual lifestyle is bigotry. That seems to be a hammer that people drag out to try to suppress all conversation.

          A bigot is really just someone whose prejudices are different than mine.

      • Maybe you could answer me a question CM. Do people who receive income from the Church as a salary have to pay taxes?

      • If sexual orientation is, like race, rooted in something biologically determined, then the exclusion of people with that sexual orientation from any aspect of public or private life is exactly the same as racism. I happen to think, based on the little I know, that sexual orientation is not as biologically determined as race, but nonetheless so rooted in the formative development of individuals that the difference between it and race is existentially negligible. Nevertheless, based on this difference in biological determination, I do not equate exclusion of GLBTI people from areas of Church life to racism, though I support the full inclusion of GLBTI people in every aspect of Church life.

        To complicate matters, there are biologists who insist that race is in fact a completely cultural phenomenon and construct, having next to no relationship to biological factors, so close are the genetic profiles of the various so-called “races”. I think they’re right: There is only one race, the human race.

    • “Imagine how the ELCA statement would read if the subject were miscegenation.”

      I’m tired of seeing this ignorant comparison trotted out. Since Nature allows the interbreeding of people of different races but DOESN’T allow the interbreeding of people of the same sex, this obviously isn’t a good comparison. It may feel good emotionally, but logical it falls apart.

      Got anything better?

      • So the moral probity of marital union depends on whether or not reproduction is possible? Should sterile heterosexuals then be prohibited from marrying, since nature does not allow the interbreeding of sterile partners?

        • Read my comment in the context of what I’m responding to. My comment is simply that “A” differs from “B” to such a great degree that they aren’t useful for comparison.

          Your comment is a different topic, though related. Still, I’ll respond to your point. Sterile heterosexuals can’t reproduce because of defect, homosexuals can’t reproduce by DESIGN. There is a big difference. You can’t walk on either a broken leg or a head. That doesn’t mean they are the same. Why? Because you can’t walk on a broken leg due to defect, but you can’t walk on the head due to design.

      • Sorry, but “interbreeding” sounds like a very inapt description and is right out of the eugenics playbook. Yikes!

        • “Interbreeding” isn’t a word that I came up with, it is taken right out of the definition of “miscegenation.”

          • Which has a great deal to do with eugenics and the fact that its strongest proponents in the early-mid 20th c. were American. The people who wote the Jim Crow laws drew directly from eugenics rhetoric and policy statements.

            I’m not pushing this as opinion; it is, unfortunately, fact.

          • OK… Still don’t understand why “interbreeding” is inapt since it is part of the terminology of the topic raised by FOR?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            First time I saw the word “miscegenation” was in a Forties-vintage creative writing textbook:
            For ten years I thought it was some fiction writer’s technical term.
            Then I found out it means “interracial marriage”.

            Though a better version (bringing out the nuances) is an infamous line from Blazing Saddles:
            “Where de White Wimmen at?”

          • “Interbreeding” sounds like you’re talking about farm animals, not about human beings who are all the same species – and who all are made in the image of God.

            One of the common justifications for slavery in the US was this: black people (African and those born in America, including the illegitimate children of slaveholders) were not fully human. Many believed that the so-called “darker races” didn’t have souls.

            This thinking was still present in the 1960s, btw. I remember hearing it on newscadts where segregationist leaders like Lester Maddox and George Wallace were featured. (Not to mention the Klan.) No doubt msny still believe it, though they’re less likely to say it aloud in public than they were back then.

  5. Some of the most dedicated parishoners in many churches are gay. This has been true since the year 0.

    I do so hope that people start to understand that slamming LGBTQI people with lifelong sentences of “Total celibacy or else!” is not only cruel, but something the straight people who impose this rule (and penalties for breaking it) would never in a million years put up with if even some of them applied it to themselves.

    Some few people – of all orientations – are truly called to lifelong celibacy. Others, including the widowed, divorced, and those of us who have never married, might be long-term celibates, but we are not denied the possibility of finding a life partner and creating a life with them. In denying this to gay people in both church and the civil realm, are we really showing the love of Christ, or are we throwing people out jnto the cold, then locking the gates and barring all the doors?

    I think you regulars know that i used to be anti-, but being around folks and hearing their stories (of faithful love against all odds, of rejection and cruelty dealt out by religious people and others out there in the wider world) changed my mind and heart. I honestly don’t believe that all the proof texts that get trotted out are being read and understood for what they are, in their original contexts. Neither do i accept a lot of the proof texting done by pro- advocates.

    We desperately need balance in this, a good grounding in sexual ethics – and open ears, minds and hearts.

    • What did you think of the ELCA statement, numo?

      • I think we’re headed in the right direction, but must say i am dismayed at the number of people and congregations that have left the synod over this.

        Change comes so slowly… and my confession here is that back in 2002, i sent an email to the people who headed up the human sexuality study stating that i would leave the ELCA if the started pushing inclusiveness. I wrote that, and look where i am now! (One of the blogs that helped change my mind is Ex-Gay Watch. I used to know some people who were very involved in Exodus, and even supported one of their ministries myself, 20+ years ago.)

    • “Total celibacy or else!” is not only cruel, but something the straight people who impose this rule (and penalties for breaking it) would never in a million years put up with if even some of them applied it to themselves.

      That part has always been the Achilles Heel of any discussions regarding homosexuality, or any other sexual sin for that matter – we live in a culture of hyper-exposure and hyper-sensitivity to sexuality in general, and in general doesn’t like to be told “no” in just about anything. In refusing to embrace celibacy for heterosexuals in general (and not just the silly knee-jerk “save it till you’re married” kind you see in evangelicalism), the church in America has pretty much forfeited any right to speak on the issue of celibacy in any other fashion.

      Say what you will about Catholic patterns of clerical celibacy, at least they still have the option…

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Well, it is not as if Catholic celibacy has never led to sexual deviancy or anything.

        I have a cousin in Europe who is a militant atheist precisely because of that.

        • There are enough reasons to be a militant atheist, people will find one. Do you really believe your cousin would be born again if there were no pedophile priests? Think again.

      • Of course, in former ages ,most heterosexuals were married off at just about the age of sexual development and awareness, mid teens, and had children precariously close to the date of their nuptials (records were not closely kept back in the day for most people, so it behooved everyone to move the date as far back in their imagination as necessary to make things “legitimate”; some historical studies support this), so it’s not like heterosexuals said “No!” to themselves for very long. But now, many expect both unmarried young adults and GLBTI people to say “No!” to themselves for years and year, or forever. Including the Catholic Church.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        …we live in a culture of hyper-exposure and hyper-sensitivity to sexuality in general, and in general doesn’t like to be told “no” in just about anything.

        We live in a culture of hypersexuality in general.

      • Could sum all that up with “it’s a stupid American issue”.

        Let’s hear from Christians from other countries. Liturgical Gansta style. Get me some Canadian, Irish, British, South African, Chinese, Japanese, Vulcan people in here, and tell us how your congregation & denomination (local and national views there) handle it.

      • “We live in a culture of hyper-exposure and hyper-sensitivity to sexuality in general . . . . In refusing to embrace celibacy for heterosexuals in general . . . . the church in America has pretty much forfeited any right to speak on the issue of celibacy in any other fashion.”

        Yes, but … Rigorously upholding the principle of celibacy for heterosexual single people would be more consistent. However, it wouldn’t create moral ground for prohibiting same-sex relationships. The two matters are too dissimilar.

        Telling a single person that they cannot have premarital sex might be difficult for them, but you are still affirming of their sexual feelings. Also, the possibility still exists that at some future time, they may act on them. Further, you are saying that they will not only be permitted the liberty to act on them, but that this dimension of life contains within it an important expression of the selfhood and has some connection to spirituality.

        Telling a person that they cannot ever have sex, and that their potential of ever finding a partner and all associated with that event, has probability of zero, and that any hopes or fantasizes about such a topic are illegitimate, is a very different act. It has the effect of alienating that person from very deep and intimate aspects of themselves.

        To a degree, celibacy is one way out of the impasse – celibacy can be conceived of as a calling that is, in itself, a kind of expression of sexuality. However, rejuvenating Christianity’s praise for lifelong celibacy is not a good fix. It may be the solution for some people. But celibacy is a calling and a decision, it cannot be imposed arbitrarily on an entire population with good results. If tomorrow you declared that everyone in, say, Switzerland ought to take up that vocation, the result would for some portion of that population be catastrophic. Who could expect it, or impose it?

    • Thank you. I think you’d love Kathy V. Baldock’s book (see my post).

    • brianthedad says

      really not being snarky, but can a hopelessly behind-the-times guy get the words for the alphabet/acronym in your post while keeping it imonk-friendly? the first four I got, but it seems every time I read something somewhere about this issue, more letters get added.

      • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex/Inquiring – i.e., there is some variation.

      • “I” stands for “intersex,” used to refer to those born with sexual, or reproductive, anatomy not typically male or female.

      • I believe it is Q= Queer and I= Inquiring. Get ready for more letters in that description, they will be coming.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I just call them “The Unpronounceables” and let it go at that.

          • That Other Jean says

            If you’re looking for something pronounceable, try QUILTBAG. Q=queer/questioning, U=undecided, I=intersex/inquiring, L=lesbian, T=transgender, B=bisexual, A=asexual, G=Gay.

          • Faulty O-Ring says

            So what does LGBTQ I/ MLP:FIM stand for? Sounds perverted…

  6. CM, i think it would be great if you were somehow able to follow up on this post with a piece or two by gay folks who are xtian, and involved in the life of the church – or who had no choice but to leave, and know what the wilderness is like.

    Some of the kindest, most compassionate and thoughtful people i’ve known in my lifetime were/are not xtian (of other religions or none), gay, or both. I have spent a long time in the arts (during college, grad school and after), so there have been tim3s when a great number of fellow students and colleagues were/are gay. Yet for years, i lived with the awful Culture Wars dichotomy inside my head, while at the same time knowing that it just didn’t apply to the people i met, who were often FAR more accepting and welcoming than many of the church people i knew.

    The truth is that character is no more bound to a given eexual orientation than it is to skin color, religion, ethnicity/country of origin (and on and on). I think a lot of us need to get out into the world a bit more and make friends with people who are different to us – for the sake of friendship alone, and also as part of working for the commin good. (Which can be anything from volunteering at an animal rescue to helping with a school play to being part of Neighborhood Watch to inviting the neighbors over for dinner to… you name it.)

  7. I envision a future much like that in Europe and parts of Asia, where a civil marriage is a legal contract performed at a government office without pomp or ceremony, much like getting a driver’s license or obtaining a building permit for a new kitchen. Duly subject to contract law and intended for legal reasons only.

    A Christian or covenant marriage, on the other hand, will be the sole province of a church, free to set its own parameters for what should be a sacrament that parallels the union of Christ and His Church. These unions will stand as a separate entity, which may or may NOT coincide with the civil requirements.

    My dear parents-in-law married exactly like this in Korea, circa 1951….after the civil wedding they went back to their own single-gender housing units after a brief lunch. The “REAL” marriage was three days later, at which time the white dress, champagne, and honeymoon were in full force.

    • Pattie makes the perfect point, which has mostly been lost in U.S. protestant culture. The Roman Catholic church seems to understand this. A legal contract of marriage should be completely different from holy matrimony according to any particular religous tradition. Pastors are representatives of the church and should not be agents of the state. They should not be signing marriage licenses. Then, there will be no debate about whether a pastor can be forced to perform a marriage against his/her religous convictions or the teachings of his/her tradition.

      • “They should not be signing marriage licenses.”
        YES! I agree completely. Marriage licenses are a recent development in western government. The “why” is not important, but the application SHOULD be civil ONLY while letting the church continue to celebrate the COVENANT between a man and a woman, as Jesus described, as they always have. In that way they would be within their rights if they chose to NOT perform same sex union celebrations because it would not be a state sanctioned event.

        • OldProphet says

          Yes Oscar! Plus 1000. As I posted earlier today. When the state holds the Church hostage to a tax exemption then it can dictate what the Church can do. That makes the Church a lackey of the State. And pastors should not be puppets of the State. Just sayin…..

      • I think this is a good way forward.

        • Funny how Canadians incorporate the civil aspects into the marriage ceremony itself (in some cases) or else
          sign the registry in front of the wddfing guests after the religious ceremony is over.

          I think that kight be something we could take to heart.

          Oh, and… Canada legalized same-sex marriage some years back, and i have yet to see any reports of social or moral collapse Up There…

          • No collapse but certainly an intense persecution of any one anywhere who disagrees with the homosexual community.

            The public cases are too numerous too mention.

  8. I am damaged goods. It has been revealed to me for quite some time the things that I learned and did from my youth have kept me from knowing exactly what God wanted for me in sexual relations. Unfortunately I had developed this without the spiritual and inviting God into it. I find physical relations to be of a carnal nature and I can’t ever seem to get my thinking straight here and I fear it too late so I just don’t engage. I don’t want things that are not with Him in it. My point being we are all broken in some ways and as we look to Him it is Him who has to show us. Do I believe I could be restored. Yes but my youth is gone and he has told me that I may not have that back. I heard it audibly. That’s pretty direct. May the Lord have mercy on me and us all in love and show us His ways.

    • Though I never hear the voice of God as clearly as you hear it, w, I feel compelled to say and believe: The Lord loves you as you are. I say the same to all in the LGBTI Christian community.

      • First time from my phone. I had no time left this morning. I am not gay but my point being that the holy spirit is capable of helping and or convicting I out of love. I don’t do things out of love because it can’t stand the separation.

      • I totally messed that up apparently I can’t type from my phone very well. Thank you though Robert. The damage done thing Is still on going and I still hold on to hope. I don’t do certain things because of love, His love. I hate being separated as it is the most awful of feelings I get anymore and I was separated because of myself for way too long. My point is the same. It is the Holy spirit that does what he does and my confidence is in Him not myself so I just keep trying to love His way not mine. I get it wrong still but He is kind.

  9. that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage

    …so basically, none whatsoever.

  10. Finally my copy is on the way – in other words, I haven’t received or read it yet – but this may be a very important book on the subject (FYI, I’m friends with both Kathy and her publisher):

    Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community


    From the publisher’s page:

    In 2001, Kathy Baldock, a straight conservative evangelical Christian, met Netto Montoya, a lesbian Native American, on the local hiking trails near her home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Their friendship challenged Baldock’s cultural and religious beliefs about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

    In Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach between the Church and the LGBT Community, Baldock uncovers the historical, cultural, medical, and political filters of discrimination through which the LGBT community is seen. With the foundation firmly established, she examines the most controversial filter of all: what the Bible says about same-sex behavior.

    Ten years of research, as well as relationships with thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, led to answering important questions:

    How did history, culture, science, and politics intertwine to create social discrimination against the gay and transgender community?
    When and why did the conservative Christian community turn their focus on the gay and transgender community?
    Should Christian fellowship be extended to gay and transgender people? Should civil marriages, or even Christian marriages, be granted to them?

    · What is happening within the LGBT Christian movement today?

    Baldock carefully constructs a timeline as she untangles the details of various influences and influencers. Along the way, she shares fascinating stories and testimonies enriching the historical journey. Finally, for those who are wondering how they might enter into productive and respectful conversations about the intersection of faith and sexual orientation or gender identity, this book offers the resources and tools needed to make informed and wise, Christ-centered choices.

  11. When Michael Spencer wrote “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” posts this community should have been one of the first Christian one’s to know “the balance has tipped”. It is recognizable that he thought the “culture war” was significant reason for the collapse and had serious repercussions…”pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society”.

    We here on Internet Monk disagree on the homosexuality issue even after reading and commenting on the ELCA position. I think we need something to say as Christians that encompasses our differences and agreements. Maybe not perfect, but subliminally acknowledges that.

    My position to my biological family is that “we share our table, not our bed”.

  12. I am a Kinsey -1 (yes, I know the scale only goes to zero, but I have absolutely so little ability to be sexually aroused by or attracted to or interest in having sexual relations or a sexual relationship with another male that I might as well be a -1), which ironically makes me absolutely able to understand why a person who is a Kinsey 6 or even a Kinsey 5 cannot do anything about their sexual orientation or attraction – as well as understand that the feelings and responses and thoughts I have re: a person of the opposite sex are what they have re: persons of the same sex. Human sexual orientations/attractions are a continuum, with probably the preponderance of persons being Kinsey 0s and 1s (and maybe stretching a little into 2s if they are willing to admit it), but it’s a continuum nevertheless.

    • I bet that a *lot* more people fall somewhere closer to the middle of the continuum than anyone is willing to admit, particularly when romantic (as opposed to purely sexual, i.e. physical) attraction is factored in.

      This is a very complex topic, and no grid or graph or scale will ever come close to an accurate portrayal of the nuances, gradations and seeming contradictions in human minds and hearts, imo.

    • “…cannot do anything about their sexual orientation or attraction.”

      Eric- I can’t disagree strongly enough with that statement. Over the course of my life I have fit in anywhere from a 1-4 on that scale. During the 80’s I dated as many guys as girls. I have also watch the path my friends have followed. In my experience there is much that effects and CHANGES orientation and desire. I think it’s the rare person that is a certain way from birth.

      • TPD: I didn’t say that a person’s sexual orientation or attraction would or could never change. I mean that people are pretty helpless when it comes to being able to do anything about their sexual orientation or attraction – i.e., it comes from things over which we have no or almost no conscious control.

        Yes, sexual orientation and/or attraction can sometimes change or expand, probably more so in females than in males. Free download: http://ddanne.lima-city.de/Sexual_Fluidity.pdf

        • “I mean that people are pretty helpless when it comes to being able to do anything about their sexual orientation or attraction – i.e., it comes from things over which we have no or almost no conscious control.”

          Which is what I disagree with. I change (at least partially) as a result of my choices and actions. I’ve observed that others do as well. The current of life is strong but we can certainly maneuver ourselves in its flow.

          • The great majority of people who were in “ex-gay” therapy found it impossible to change, no matter what choices they made or actions they took.

          • As with any ingrained sinful behavior change only happens over a lifetime, sometimes in imperceptibly small steps. But with grace and perseverance change happens. It is both hard and joyful. The great thing about grace is that the number of times you fall doesn’t matter, the only way to lose the battle with sin is to give up and call “evil, good and good, evil.” Sometimes I am filled with self-pity and think my life was very hard (sexually abused, struggling with all sorts of perverse desires). But in more lucid moments I realize that everybody has their various struggles. No one gets to avoid the hard path , though it takes many forms.

          • Eric – exactly. I used to support an ex-gay ministry, and it was SO hard (impossible, really) for people to conform to the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity that wrreexpected of them, let alone change their orientation. I cannot imagine the agony people were feeling, trying so hard to make themselves acceptable to the church – and, as they were told, to God.

            People lived with extreme cognitive disdonance. One of the leaders said many, many times that he had bern “completely delivered from homosexuality” inthe early 70s, but in the same breath admit that he still “struggled” with his attraction to other men.

            I think the few “success stories” from these places were in the form of people who were bi and married a straight spouse.

    • This is a nit-pick, but the Kinsey scale isn’t about orientation or attraction, it’s about behavior. If you’ve never been in a sexual relationship or had a sexual encounter with a man your a zero.

  13. It has NEVER been about gay marriage. NO ONE CARES if gays want to pretend they are married. (That’s like talking to myself and calling it a conversation). WHAT IT IS ABOUT is more power for the government to control your life, your church, your family, and whom you do business with. I was fine with gay marriage — until the bullies and totalitarians started telling photographers and bakers whom they may and may not associate with in a business sense. Of course, the fascists have the 1965 Civil Rights Act on their side, and looked at closely, it appears that in 1965, the fascists just guilt-tripped the rest of us into giving up freedom of association.

    I will be so glad when Jesus gets down here and shows Bush, Obama, and everyone else what REAL government is. And trust me — there won’t be ANY gay marriages then.

    • I’m pretty sure most of us around here don’t see Jesus like that, Clark.

      Please moderate future comments so that they contribute to discussion.

    • Long time, no see, Clark. So you’re Jesus was on the side of the guys with the bullhorns and the packs of dogs back in the years leading up to the Civil Rights Act? No doubt he was against the idea of boycotting the apartheid regime in South Africa back in the day…….

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says

        Fallacy of the excluded middle

        The Nazification of the Southern “racist” yeoman class is one of the signal successes of the Ministry of Truth in the last 50 years. The bullhorns and the dog packs haven’t gone away. They’ve been tucked into the closets until the will to suppress them goes away.

        As a Northerner who is a long-time resident in the South, I am intrigued at how alike pore white and pore black culture is, yet there are some interesting and intransigent differences. Differences that we can’t discuss as long as we maintain that everybody is basically Swedish and that all the differences are due to distortions introduced by the oppressive Protestant white, male, cis-gendered patriarchy.

        Interesting how quickly Clark is Othered here. Who? Whom?

        • Clark is in the habit of calling those on the opposite side of the political aisle “fascists,” and his comments routinely not only exclude, but nuke the middle.

          What middle existed between those who supported the Civil Rights Act, and those who didn’t? Where was a mediating solution? Can you identify it, Mule? WWJD?

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says

            The middle was completely destroyed by the Radical Republicans in the last year of the American Civil War when it became painfully apparent that only the brutal, complete military subjugation of the South would end the war. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was, to my mind, an extension of the same mentality. I was 13 when that legislation passed. I grew up with images of fire hoses and dog packs on my black and white TV screen, and I remember the relief in my Rockefeller Republican household when LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1965. “Finally, someone’s gonna bring those iggerant crackers to heel down there” was the general consensus.

            Ever since then, and maybe before, there has been a tendency for the Whig meritocracy to legislate the canons of their behavior into the Law of the Land. Couple this with a belief in Historical Necessity that would make Vladimir Ilyich blush, and you have some real damage done to the freedom of association.

            In the meantime, I have some questions that won’t go away, and they cannot be answered in the current climate.

            Why don’t white Southerners like Blacks? They live armpit to armpit down here in a way I never saw when I lived up North. Would anything have been lost by letting the South go its own way and letting slavery collapse under its own weight like it did in Brazil? Why does the predominately White portion of Fulton County want to separate from the predominately Black southern portion? Is it really just racism, or are Whites just better at self-government like Blacks are creative at wordplay?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Why don’t white Southerners like Blacks? They live armpit to armpit down here in a way I never saw when I lived up North.

            Because “Po’ White Trash” (like the rank-and-file of the Third Klan) have only their Whiteness to make themselves NOT the bottom of the heap. And the second-from-the-bottom are really hard-ass at making sure those on the bottom stay there.

            Oh, and since The Sixties “Fascist” has meant “Anyone who tells me I can’t do whatever I WANNA is a FASCIST!” I still run into these arrested-development throwbacks.

  14. Looks like it may be another 200+ comments post.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      No subject piles on the comments like HOMOSEXUALITY.

      • Right on, HUG.

        What I’d like to see is this discussion merged with recent comments about “free will.” Is it just me, or do others notice that those who most strongly believe that we have no free will are also those who believe that sexual orientation is just another choice?

      • Faulty O-Ring says

        Welcome to the dogpile.

  15. Asinus Spinas Masticans says

    In other news, the slaughter of Arab Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt continues unabated:

    From my personal email, from an Arab Orthodox woman in Ontario:

    We recently received these two emails from missionary
    friends, one yesterday and one this morning. I pass it on so that people
    can pray specifically for our brothers and sisters.

    This is so sad. A friend from Ohio just got a text
    message from her brother asking her to shower him and his parish in prayer.
    He is part of a mission team and ISIS has taken over the town they are in
    today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the
    Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one
    child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the
    parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries on their own. They are
    determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means
    their own deaths. He is very afraid, has no idea how to even begin
    ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet
    he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be His voice and
    hands at this place at this time…

    I don’t think I need to explain where my faith tradition is going to end up on this issue. We’re obviously one of Commissar O-Ring’s irredeemable churches. If we are to keep communion with our brothers and sisters who had their children executed in front of their eyes, I don’t paying some taxes so that we can keep the Faith intact is gonna faze us.

    Haters gonna hate
    Heterodox gonna hetero
    Antichrist gonna anti

    • Let’s stay on topic, please.

      • Not completely off topic to point out that there is real oppression in the world while we debate the current pseudo-oppression of both the “persecuted Christian conservative” on the one-hand and the “poor persecuted homosexual” on the other.

        • Faulty O-Ring says

          As long as we’re pointing out examples of oppression, let’s not forget Holy Russia.

    • The massacre of the innocents. Their cries ring down through the ages. Yet again…..

      Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

      • Patrick Kyle says


        Words fail…

        I have been praying for the Christians in Syria and Iraq, especially the children. This is absolutely heart breaking.
        May the Lord Himself confound and turn back the plans of evil men…

    • I know it is off-topic, but some things should interrupt and stop us in our tracks.

      If the report is true … There are not words. There is only the primal scream, which God must translate for us.

      Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

  16. OldProphet says

    We in the Evangelical community want to scream about homosexuality but nit about adultery,formication. , and child abuse, which are far greater issues. It’s a dirty little truth that permeates today’s church. Not gay marriage. Just sayin

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      That’s because homosexuality is always the Other Guy’s SIN.

      When it’s your own “peculiarities”, you keep silent.
      Because that can come back to bite YOU.

      • OldProphet says

        Oh no! I’m starting to think like HUG! I must strap myself to the yardarms and take 40 lashes as correction. Lord have mercy on me!

      • Yep. Rage on about homosexuality…but please, no sermons on gluttony! I wouldn’t want to have to change my diet!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          The trope of the almost-too-fat-to-stand-up preacher screaming and ranting about some other (usually sexual) SIN started for a reason. Years ago, I saw real-life examples of it on YouTube.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says

      “Untruth did not begin with us; nor will it end with us”
      Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

      Gay “marriage” isn’t the engine. It isn’t even the caboose, like I once thought. It’s more like the dining car. I don’t know why it’s been in the last 80 or so years that all the traditional understandings of sex and relationships between the sexes have been turned on their ear. Did we get smarter all of a sudden, or just less capable of denying our passions?

      Or, worst of all, is it a combination of the two?

      • Throughout most of history, most people (who were mostly peasants, serfs and slaves) got married somewhere in their mid-teens, so there wasn’t a lot of denying of passions going on for most people at any point. We live in a completely different sexual/social reality, in which, to remain chaste until marriage, many or most people would have to remain sexually inactive for years, even a decade or more, after their sexual drive kicked in and their hormones started raging. Previous generation did not prove their ability to deny their passions, because they had little occasion to, but current generations are being asked to live up to a legacy of sexual self-denial that never actually happened as if it did.

      • On a natural level, I think it is the combination of our making freedom and individual liberty the highest value, affluence, which allows us to give more time to these kinds of matters rather than survival, and technology, which paved the way for the sexual revolution and through advanced communications made us more aware of the other. It also gives us the ability to advocate for various causes more effectively.

        These are the engines of “progress,” which also, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, advance secularization.

        Freedom and individual liberty is the highest value.
        Affluence frees us to pursue that freedom in more robust ways.
        Technology gives us the tools to do so.

        IMO, Christians and other groups that lament the loss of moral certainties have not adequately thought through these natural factors, which lead people away from absolutist positions and toward individual autonomy.

        That’s my theory anyway.

        • +1

        • There are many reasons this is uncomfortable for Christians to think about. For example:

          There’s not much we can do about it unless we drop out of society, abandon the benefits of progress, and become monks and nuns or Amish. Don’t think too many Christians will buy that. We love freedom, autonomy, affluence, and new gadgets as much as anyone else.

          We don’t want to face up to our loss of power. The culture war is all about who gets to call the shots. We’re losing. We can try to fight our way back to the top, or imagine other ways of living among our neighbors.

        • agreed!

        • Asinus Spinas Masticans says

          Thank you very much, CM

          This is very helpful. Of course, I hear the echoes of Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s voice from How Shall We Then Live inveighing agains the “horrific” values of “personal peace” and “prosperity”.

          • I was a devotee of Schaeffer for years until he went off the culture war rails. Long ago, a friend of his, Os Guinness, reminded us that we must distinguish between secularism and secularization. Christians tend to get all concerned about the former while they don’t have any clue about the very natural change that takes place because of the latter. As a result, we are poor adapters.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Not only poor adapters, but notoriously Late Adopters.

        • I’m a long-time reader of this blog, but almost never comment. I read most posts with mixed degrees of agreement and disagreement, but rarely desire to jump in. But Chaplain Mike’s comment is actually a very concise and plausible analysis of why society has been changing the way it has this last century or so. It makess so much sense, it’s almost a no-brainer…but it helps encapsulate so much of the complexity of the social change around us.

      • I think you your analogy about it being the dining car – or something else in the middle of the train – is apt.

        I don’t think we are “smarter” (not exactly) or less capable of denying passions. Nor do I see much indication in the history of sexuality that there is an earlier, less impulsive era.

        CM’s ideas point in the right direction – there have been multiple, systemic changes in society, in economic life, and in scientific or technological capacity which are giving rise to new realities and new questions. There have been important shifts as well in the questions we have learned to ask about power and how it functions in society. These changes have occurred in a fairly short space of time. They present unforeseen questions and challenges to received mores. One can tell that story as a tale of impending doom and collapse; I think the truth of the matter is that some of these developments are a good, and some of the questions are good, and carry with them both unanticipated potential and unanticipated hazards. Civilization is changing, not necessary falling. The difficulty for religion, and part of its value, is that it tends to preserve received meanings, and the changes we’ve experienced have happened more quickly than religion ordinarily adapts. This makes it harder than it would otherwise be to figure out how to articulate a set of religious principles that preserve deeper spiritual truths while still addressing human needs. We run the twin risks of either inadequately articulating religious truths, or advancing a set of meaningless words that no one can apply, or that do violence in the experiences we are trying to enliven.

        The biggest problem with conditions like these is that they seem to require that individual actors, and the leader who purport to dispense guidance, to be smarter and more self-aware, particularly in balancing questions about individual fulfillment and the needs of others – that is, the new order needs people to be fairly altruistic, by their own choice. That smarts and altruism are now being held up as values in the secularized, more affluent order is a net positive. The difficulty, of course, is that we are likely not, in fact, smarter or more altruistic [although I hope I’m wrong – it would be great if we pushed the ball a little further in the right direction!]. So our ideals and our lived realities will veer off from each other. Then again, this is a very old problem, and not the fault of the new order (whatever it turns out to be); it is not as though the predominance of a different sexual order in previous centuries actually produced compliance or virtue on a mass scale. It produced an order, with winners and losers. There were some significant losers, and some significant evils that were either sanctioned or tolerated, that have recently become intolerable to us. Some of that is good.

        Good or not, we are all, mostly, on the same boat, and it is out of port. It is possible to overplay this point, but when I started doing research on American marriage and religion several years ago, I expected to be telling a story about differences. Instead, the really striking thing to me about the “culture wars” are the degree to which both sides are playing on the same field. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to describe this fact – and make some use out of it. I appear anymore to be writing about evangelical involvement in the therapeutic culture.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          CM’s ideas point in the right direction – there have been multiple, systemic changes in society, in economic life, and in scientific or technological capacity which are giving rise to new realities and new questions.

          Being from SoCal, I read “systemic” as “seismic”. Which adds a whole new dimension to the analogy:

          For some time after each main shock, you get a series of aftershocks.

        • Good food for thought.

  17. OldProphet says

    Sorry for the bad typos. No coffee yet!

  18. The Supreme Court is wise to stay out of this. It’s a states’ rights matter.

    Chaplain Mike asked, “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

    It’s a done deal here in Maine; voters passed marriage equality in 2012. I think some churches are still licking their wounds, but there’s not much can be done outside the walls of the churches, with Romans 13 still in effect. There may be some protests around the state capitol, some letters written, but I think most of that energy will be conserved to fight abortion.

    Interestingly, in 2010 marriage equality in Maine was passed by both houses and signed by the governor. It would have gone into effect after a certain period, but a voters’ initiative stalled it, got a referendum on the ballot that November and voters killed it that time around. It often depends on the wording of a referendum. The wording on the 2012 ballot was more favorable for passage.

  19. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Well, that gives the Christian Culture Warriors job security.
    Cause Without End, Amen.

  20. A great comment I read
    The self congratulating comment in the conclusive paragraph about seeking “to tap the deep roots of Scripture” is somewhat lost on me. How did it do this exactly? If anything, it seemed like they had an arms length approach with Scripture but produced much carbon footprint informing us what “some are convinced” of instead. This way they manage to keep both barking dogs on either side of the fence happy. In that sense the statement does not present any solid conviction or hold a firm position one way or another but it’s just fiddling around the edges instead. “Our position is not to take a position either way”.

  21. How deeply sad I am for culture and the challenges that will ensue. I find myself fighting anger at Christians who seem to act as though the universe will rejoice. The short-sighted and myopic view of scripture and history is deeply troubling. I am pleased to have a personal relationship with Dr. Benne and have found his reasoned and gentle approach with the ELCA a reminder that in the short run we will become a minority but we don’t have to be mean spirited.

  22. “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

    The divorce rate in America is over 40%
    The out-of-wedlock birth rate in America is over 40%
    Over 20% of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion
    Same-sex “marriage” is spreading across the land

    It’s clear that this sacred relationship (marriage) that is supposed to represent the life giving union between Christ and His Bride (Eph. 5 and others) is in sad shape. In light of that I would hope that my pastor/church will treat this just like the plethora of other sins that plague our culture. Love the sinner, embrace them, and point them to repentance and forgiveness.

    On the other hand, someone is bound to release a modern transliteration of the Bible that refers to Christ and His baby-mama or Christ and His same-sex spouse. I’ll be very interesting to see how those passages read and what sacred mysteries can be gleaned from them.

    • Are all marriages a sacred relationship that reflects Christ?

      • Definitely not, because there was this little thing called The Fall of Man.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If you’re into Salvation by Marriage Alone, they all are.
        (A subject which has been brought up more than once in this blog’s archives.)

      • Patrick Kyle says

        Yes, because, in the words of Jesus God made them one flesh, and the Apostle Paul says our union symbolizes Christ and the Church.

  23. “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

    Hopefully by serving and loving our neighbors as ourselves. With much help from the Lord.

  24. Chaplain Mike, I just send you an email introducing a friend of mine to you who is a gay Christian and willing to talk and share his story and experiences with us here on IM.

  25. Something to read and think about:


    Distorted Love: The Toll Of Our Christian Theology On The LGBT Community

    • Good article thanks Eric. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we’ve walked further down the “sancification” trail than we have, and this gives us the right to tell others how much worse their sin is than ours. If the definition of sin is simply missing the mark, then we’re all a lot more sinful than we think we are. I know God renews our mind and changes us over time, but I think it’s a mistake for any Christian to think we’re past the point of being broken people. Compassion for those with homosexual tendencies should rule the day. On the flip side, compassion from homosexual Christians is hoped for as well.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we’ve walked further down the “sancification” trail than we have, and this gives us the right to tell others how much worse their sin is than ours.

        Unless you’re a Hyper-Cal, where the bragging rights come from being More Depraved and Sinful than Thou.

  26. My point, since CM asked us to stay on track, is that gay marriage isn’t even about gay marriage. It’s about the government having more police power to bully you and me and the people we love. When you don’t have freedom to choose whom you do business with, YOU DON’T HAVE FREEDOM. That is the response of my pastor, church, denomination, and tradition to this “new reality”?

    • That’s not a point, that’s a scare tactic, and I’m done with such thinking.

      Your freedom means nothing if you can’t follow what your Jesus tells you to do.

      Forget freedom.

    • Clark, since you’re concerned about the government having too much police power, you must be glad the Supreme Court is staying out of this.

    • “My point, since CM asked us to stay on track, is that gay marriage isn’t even about gay marriage. It’s about the government having more police power to bully you and me and the people we love.”

      No, gay marriage is actually about gay marriage. You are using your narrative about the government – and liberals – to switch the conversation away from the rights of the gay community. Forget that! What about *my oppression*?

      The scuffle over businesses selling cakes and photographic packages is an extremely eddy to the larger and more important conversation. I’m not even convinced either side really cares about it, so much as they’re using it for symbolism. The right wants to switch the narrative to the oppression of the “great ‘us'” by the minority ‘them.’ Some on the left want to take the bait, because to them it represents a rehash of our earlier national travails over lunch counters and segregated hospitals.

      In reality, few businessmen care who eats their cakes, and few people planning a wedding want an angry, hostile baker shaping their fondant.

      • I agree with Danielle – i.e., gay marriage is actually about gay marriage – based on the several or many gay couples I know, both married and unmarried.

        • Eric, and Danielle — do you want to re-phrase that? I think to most gay couples, their marriage is about marriage, not necessarily “gay marriage”—if it’s to be marriage equality, and not something “other.”

          • Ted: Yes, gay marriage is about marriage, not about all the nefarious things its opponents claim that it’s a subterfuge or opening for.

          • I was repeating the Clark’s phraseology back to him to make my point: x is about x!

            Your correction is a good one. To those queuing up on courthouse steps, the issue at hand is about inclusion in marriage – and what marriage entails.

            And for some, it is about adding the dignity of name–and recognition and protection that attends it–to a reality they have already been living, some of them for decades now.

          • Danielle,

            I didn’t bother to ask Clark if he wanted to rephrase that.

  27. For the conservative evangelical there is no “way forward”. There is either capitulation or marginalization. We have indeed reached that tipping point in American culture. The issue for me revolves around interpreting Paul in the ancient Greco-Roman context. Since he clearly condemns same sex sexual acts; the issue is was he unaware of committed faithful same sex relationships and if he were aware would he have condemned them. In other words are his condemnations of same sex acts culturally contextual and subject to further enlightenment by the Holy Spirit as in slave ownership (no one now disputes this) or women’s ordination (still disputed). The cultural contextualizations of Paul’s letters are alleged because it is asserted he had no knowledge of committed same sex relationships and he is mainly speaking to oppressive subordination of young men by older more powerful men.
    There is some scholarship contrary to this assertion, see for example: http://oakhill2.ablette.net/blog/entry/same_sex_relations_in_the_ancient_world/#sthash.yPFvKg89.dpuf.
    For example, the Greek poetess Sappho of Lesbos (fl 600 BC.). Sappho is unsurprisingly associated with female same-sex relations since some of her richly-textured lyric poetry addresses other women as lovers. She was highly regarded in antiquity as a poetess (very deservedly) and from her we derive two English words describing same-sex female relations, lesbianism and sapphism. This tells very strongly against any idea that antiquity knew nothing of female same-sex relations, as of course does Romans 1:26-27, where female same-sex relations along with same-sex male relations are envisaged as part of human sin.
    Another example given is Plato’s Symposium (mid 4th century BC). A persistent theme is the love between an older man and a male youth (not a male child). Several speeches argue that this love can be dishonourable, when either party is simply out for his own ends. But such relationships are honourable where there is faithfulness to and support for each other.
    Finally Suetonius in his life of Nero describes two same-sex marriages by Nero. One was with a youth whom he had castrated, Sporus, in which Sporus played the part of bride (Nero 28), and Suetonius emphasises both the formal element – ‘the rites of marriage’ (sollemnia nuptiarum) and how public it was. In the second, with one Doryphorus, Nero was the bride (Nero 29).
    I am deeply conflicted here. If Paul’s condemnations are not culturally contextual then same sex acts are sin and grieve the Holy Spirit. Biological predisposition is irrelevant. We are all biologically predisposed to sin. My hope and prayer for my gay friends is that His love covers a multitude of sins.

    • Sexual relationships between adult men were *not* approved in Greco-Roman society. And there’s no other record of women together but Sappho’s in ancient lit, afaik. The thing is, women were stuck at home in Greco-Roman culture, for the mostmpart, while men were the ones who had lives outside of the home.

      Given the low value accorded to women plus their confinement, is it any wonder that they would seek each other out? And that most men eould neither know nor care? Wives were supposed to produce heirs; men often went elsewhere for sex (with people of both eexes and likely more than two genders, given the presence of eunuchs).

      I don’t think some attemptec explanations (by people coming from diverse positions on this issue) of Paul’s comments are necessarily accurate, but it does appear to me that he was *not* talking about monogamous relationships betwern vonsenting adults; further, that his over the top depiction of “gay” sex is part of a larger rhetoricalmsetup – the “gotcha!” of it is early on in Romans 2, after he’s gone on piling terrible comments onto the gentiles. So there is deliberate overstatement involved there, and not a little irony and sarcasm – compare to other passages of his where he uses the same devices yo make a point. (Like the one about wishing that circumciscion advocates would castrate themselves.)

      • Hence the deep conflict. I am willing to be convinced, numo, but the argument that Paul was “over the top” in his rhetoric still doesn’t persuade me. He can be rhetorical and still inspired by God. The center of the point is; is Paul’s condemnation of same sex acts God’s condemnation as well. I just don’t know.

        • Mike, look at Rom 1 and 2 w/out regard to verse and chapter divisions, just look at the flow of his argument (which appears to have been directed toward Jews in the Roman chucrh) – he comes up with adjective after adjective to vilify the gentiles, building up to a crescendo, and then, BAM! He turns around and says “And such were some of you.” In other words, don’t go pointing the finger at gentiles as less holy or innately defiled, when you, too, din against God and each other. (He then goes on to expand on his reasoning, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion.)

          Keep in mind that this letter was meant to be read aloud to gatheringsnof people, and then it makes *much* more sense, in context. Paul was a master at setting things up, only to turn around and use that set-upmto devadtating effect, as here. I think it is very important to read these letters *as letters,* not as lists of commandments and proscriptions and little maxims. Fwiw, he does something very similar in Rom 7 and 8, yes?

          • I thinkmit helps to read chunks of the epistles out loud, alone. At least, it’s been helpful to me. Also, there is a lot of nifty stuff in Paul’s epistles from a literary standpoint, in terms of getting a feel for the way he thought and how he presented those thoughts.

            If we can pull back a bit from our default “instruction manual” mode re. the actual texts of the NT, a much richer world emerges – one that (imo) gives greater depth and meaning to the various texts than many will accept, in the evangelical/charismatic world, at least.

            In addition, there is plenty of good research on sexuality in Greco-Roman culture out there, though it is mainly about men. We just don’t nknow that much about womens’ lives during that petiod, because they were considered “less than” and likely far fewer were literate.

          • Not just adjective after adjective, but vile behaviors attributed to them – laid on very thick, very fast.

            Think about it.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I heard Rom 1 & 2 are a “Decline Narrative”, a style you find in Jewish wisdom literature, usually ending with “For these are the things which the goyim do.”

          • HUG – exactly this! In order to turn the whole thing on its head so he can make his real point.

          • Patrick Kyle says

            numo, Paul may be using just such a rhetorical device as you say. Of course his real point is that his hearers are just as bad. How does that lessen the sinfulness of the actions described? It does not. Those actions are still considered sinful or else they wouldn’t have been used by Paul as an example. So they are not his main point. They still remain as sins to be avoided and struggled against. Examples of things God is displeased with.

          • Patrick Kyle,
            Though I support full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations in every aspect of Church and society, I think your interpretation is correct. Paul is merely making the point to his audience that they should not be harsh, and that they should not be hypocrites, not that what they accuse others of doing is good or morally indifferent.

            I don’t find the efforts to re-interpret certain passages of scriptures in a more inclusive way with regard to this issue, for the most part, convincing. Those of us who take this progressive position do not have the warrant of the passage mentioned above, and others, or of most of tradition, to do so, and I think we should just accept that. We are working on the basis of natural theology, not revealed theology, to get where we think it is right to go, just as anti-slavery Christians did in pre-Civil war times.

  28. When all is made new, will gays be remade heterosexual in the new heavens and earth?

  29. -> “How do you envision your pastor, church, denomination, tradition responding to this new reality?”

    Not sure. The Nazarene denomination tends to be fairly conservative.

    As for me, I look at Jesus. What would he do? He’d go eat with them. If they were having a celebration, he might be there with them. He also might look at me and say, “Woe to you, teacher of the law and Pharisee, you hypocrite! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourself do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

    There are lots of lost people out there who need to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I best make sure I’m not putting up a barrier to that.

  30. Christiane says

    how much of this focus on ‘the sin of homosexual activity’ is DRIVEN by hatred and contempt? And pride that ‘we’ are ‘not like that other sinner’?

    sometimes I think God sets situations into our world to test our responses to them . . . to determine who is going to be ‘the one who left the temple justified’ as opposed to the Pharisee who looked down on the publican ????

    If I’m right, we might be better off by not sitting in judgement and finger-pointing after all. We can’t say we weren’t cautioned against being judgmental in sacred Scripture. ‘Who am I to judge another sinner?’ . . . a man recently asked that question and the world interpreted it that he ‘supported’ the sinners he refused to judge. But maybe this man, Pope Francis, was following an old call to put down the rocks, to look inward at his own weaknesses and failings, and not to ‘point the finger’ pridefully at ‘those other sinners’. An ancient call that many ‘modern’ ‘fundamentalists’ have ignored.

  31. There seems to have been a renewed sense of “the church has never talked about sex, so let’s talk about it” in the past 10 years or so. But it’s far too late. Sex has so been avoided, or mangled, by the church that all of the very good resources being offered now are dismissed. We missed the boat on speaking to the culture about sexual brokenness, healing, and wholeness, and now we have no place at the table to offer our resources.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Don’t forget that Christians are just as messed-up sexually as everybody else, just in a different direction — “Thou Shalt Not” instead of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” But the “Beware Thou of the Other. Beware Thou of the Mutant” is the same for both.

  32. Asinus Spinas Masticans says

    The hallmark of hell is not two men having sex. The hallmark of hell is total, complete, unrelenting attention to yourself. Inasmuch as you still love another human being, you betray that you are not yet a naturalized citizen of hell. I can imagine a scenario where a homosexual is saved from hell because of a devotion for her partner. Its not that hard. But it’s the love that saves, not the accidents of anatomy.

    That said, I have to admit that gays, etc. have a good press working for these days in the media. All of the people I have met with an alternative sexuality have been no better, in the sense of being less manipulative and less narcissistic, than mainstreamers, but to be honest, they haven’t been any worse either. What they have been is more defensive, and quicker to use it to camouflage other character flaws. Maybe that comes with the territory. I don’t know.

    I think the question of whether they should be allowed to marry has already been decided. What’s left is the nervous waiting for the instructions from the Central Office about what to do with the dissidents and those don’t get with the program with perfect enthusiasm and brio.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What’s left is the nervous waiting for the instructions from the Central Office about what to do with the dissidents and those don’t get with the program with perfect enthusiasm and brio.

      Those who don’t cry and mourn enough upon the demise of Comrade Dear Leader?

      • Faulty O-Ring says

        As long as we are condemning authoritarianism, don’t forget to include your own churches.

        • -> “As long as WE are condemning authoritarianism…” (emphasis mine)

          I don’t see you as much of a part of this group, just on the outside throwing stones, so the correct pronoun would’ve been “you”. And we Christians are indeed called to make sure our leaders aren’t going off the rails. Make sure you do the same with whoever you call an authority, too, FO-R. In other words, put down your stone and look at yourself.

    • -> ” I can imagine a scenario where a homosexual is saved from hell because of a devotion for her partner. Its not that hard. But it’s the love that saves, not the accidents of anatomy.”

      Yep, I’m with ya.

      -> “All of the people I have met with an alternative sexuality have been no better, in the sense of being less manipulative and less narcissistic, than mainstreamers, but to be honest, they haven’t been any worse either. What they have been is more defensive…”

      Yep, I’m with ya there, too.

      -> “What’s left is the nervous waiting for the instructions from the Central Office about what to do with the dissidents and those don’t get with the program with perfect enthusiasm and brio.”

      Yep, that, too.

      So what’s the answer? Just show love….maybe?

    • I would think that “more defensive” is a very understandable response/reaction to being bullied, discriminated against, subjected to so-called “corrective rape” (an all too common crime, especially targeting women, but by no means are men immune from sexualmassault by “straight” people) and much more. Like being tied to a fencepost and tortured to death (Matthew Shepard), or being video’d and having the vid broadcast on the internet (as with the late Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death off the George Washington bridge after his roommate betrayed him by doing this), being slammed into lockers and spat on and having epithtets hurled at you and…

      You get the picture, i think. Whether you’re willing to accept the truth of it is another thing.

    • Patrick Kyle says

      ASM, you said, ‘ I can imagine a scenario where a homosexual is saved from hell because of a devotion for her partner. Its not that hard. But it’s the love that saves, not the accidents of anatomy.”

      Our love for others saves us?

      This is truly one of the most frightening things I have heard here in awhile.

      While temporally and in a civil sense I am a stand up guy and good husband and father. However under the hood, things are a little rougher. My love for my wife is tainted at times with resentment, lust for other women, and a good dose of looking out for myself. My love for my children is likewise at times tainted with anger, regret and despair. My love for friends and relatives is equally shot through like Swiss cheese. As for anyone outside that list, well, it goes down from there. The thing is, everyone is in this same boat. So I am supposed to believe that my love,(or anyone’s love) as messed up as it is, will atone/expiate/cover/do away with my sin before God and advocate for me in the Judgement? No one loves as they ought. The idea of our ‘pure’ love is a romantic fiction. The idea that if I do it right it can save me, strikes a deep fear and despair in the pit of my stomach, and in anyone that takes more than a few minutes to think about honestly.

      • Mule Chewing Briars says

        Love, however mixed, is something grace can use. While there is love, however small, there is hope.

      • ” No one loves as they ought. The idea of our ‘pure’ love is a romantic fiction. The idea that if I do it right it can save me, strikes a deep fear and despair in the pit of my stomach, and in anyone that takes more than a few minutes to think about honestly.”

        I have to say I’m with you in all that you say in your comment, and especially the part I quoted, even though we disagree about the subject at hand. It’s my capacity or capability of love for others, or even myself, that saves me; its Christ’s love that saves me, otherwise I’m hopeless.

        I know that some will cite the gospel passage in which Christ commends a sinful woman despite her sin, saying that she loved much, and love “covers a multitude of sins.” But I think Christ is referring to her love for him, which he has inspired and given to her, and is indirectly referring to his love working in her, which is the only love that does indeed “cover a multitude of sins.”

  33. BTW, this is far and away the best discussion we have ever had on this topic. Thanks to all of you for contributing, and for listening as well as commenting.

  34. Faulty O-Ring says

    On the subject of the ELCA statement, which refers to “publicly accountable lifelong monogamous, same-gender relationships,” notice the other qualifiers.

    “Publicly accountable”–should sexual relationships be public and/or held to account? How? By who?

    “Lifelong monogamous”–do we really still believe that the ideal is to go as virgins to our marriage beds, or is this just a rhetorical flourish? I didn’t realize the Lutherans were into things like Purity Rings and Courtship (alternatives to dating), so I suspect the latter. Of course non-marital sexual relationships have traditionally been furtive, so fornicators didn’t mind being scolded from the altar (unless by name), but cohabitation is a more public relationship, and has gained increasing public acceptance, just as non-marital sex has. Do Christians really want to belong to a subculture like the Amish, or are they just used to being hypocrites?

    On the other hand, in the wider culture, the alternative to dating (sooner or later with sex) is casual hookups. Do churches really see this as equivalent? Instead of clinging to illusions and unrealistic expectations, perhaps they should be issuing encyclicals specifying how many dates their parishioners should go on before getting to the next “base”, so to speak!

    • The idea that clergy’s private sexual life with regard to lifelong monogamy could be made accountable to a church’s disciplinary process is pretty much unworkable in denominations where divorce and re-marriage are accepted. It would really be a case of people who live in glass houses…

  35. I am completely disinclined to straighten out the three gay people that are an integral part of my life because I love them just as they are. But the rest of those gay people…..