Friday, August 29, 2008

A Issue About Marriage

In November in California there will be an issue on the ballot called "Proposition 8" which, in essence, limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Clearly the battle lines are sharp. One the more liberal side of the agenda are proponents who argue that this is a civil rights issue. Gays and lesbians should be allowed the same civil rights and heterosexual couples: insurance, estates, child custody, medical information etc. Those on the conservative side say this is the slippery slope, that if defeated, would not only allow, but mandate facility use be made open for gay couples as well as heterosexual couples. That to say "no thank you" to a gay couple wishing to have me marry them or use the facility would be tantamount to refusing an African American couple or a blind couple.
My navigation of these waters is naive to say the least. So far as I can see it heterosexual marriage is the normative pattern for the Bible. I am not able to see myself officiating or participating in the blessing of a gay marriage. That being said, I am called to practice only one behavior pattern in the communities in which I live: love. I am committed to loving and respecting all people; those who agree with me and those who disagree with me, those who are orthodox and those who are heterodox, those who are addicted and those who are free, those who are obese and those who are anorexic, those who are gay and those who are straight. I want my life to practice the motto of Dr. Richard Mouw: "Convicted Civility". Those with whom I disagree should know my convictions deeply and those with whom I disagree must experience my civility. I should be ready to die for the civil rights of those with whom I differ, without compromising the beliefs I hold dear.
Does the legalization of gay marriage pose a threat to the practice of your faith as a pastor? Do you feel it will "force" you to officiate in marriages you would decline?


At 3:22 PM , Blogger Dan said...

What would you say to a couple that want a religious wedding ceremony but do not want to record the marriage with the local civil authority?

Been thinking/talking about this question you raise for the past couple of months as California bounces back and forth between the electorate and the court.

Unless I'm off in my understanding, "domestic" couples has long been a category that go a long ways towards addressing the civil rights issues and can be used to to push them further in the areas you mention.

Someone whose thinking I respect pointed out that marriage is a civil act and not particularly a religious function. Clergy are certainly authorized to perform civil marriages but certainly are not required to do so. Still,one wonders what would happen if some couple decided to use "me" as a"test" case! in discovering the boundary issues you raise would be... uncomfortable.

I would hope that the mutual respect and civility would function from the other side and that my moral convictions would be respected to the same level that I am being asked to respect the other practice.... here are a couple of other questions that have surfaced in all this for me:

How far do we go in redefining marriage between people?

If homosexual couples gain the right to be "married" then would we still outlaw one man/woman multiple wives/husbands marriages?

what about marriages between multiple men and women (something along the lines of "open marriages" (not swinging) where one or both partners in the marriage have open sexual relationships with others not in the marriage)?

At 6:03 AM , Blogger Rick said...

If you or I agree to officiate at a gay wedding, we'll be having a talk with the Board of Ordered Ministry in the Covenant, which refuses us the right to so officiate. And rightly so based on the Covenant's understanding of marriage. So we have an "out" and the fight will just go up the food chain to denominational levels and lawsuits.

So if the ballot items fails and the court's current ruling stands, I would expect that a lot of churches in the future will cease to perform marriages and only perform religious blessings - separating the civil and spiritual roles which we currently handle as one.

Because of all the issues, I expect this to wind up at the US Supreme Court as a First Amendment issue. Do biblically faithful Christians such as ourselves have the right to express their faith through refraining from blessing unions based on their convictions?

On reconsideration I might want to challenge the premise of Dan's friend - that marriage is a civil act and not necessarily a religious function. That seesms to suggest that the state is the more central entity and God the secondary and peripheral one. In Mexico the civil and spiritual acts are separated (as they may become here per my prediction above); but for the believer, it would be the religious one that matters, not the state one.

At 8:14 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Thanks Dan and Rick for deeper insights into this conversation.

At 3:35 PM , Blogger Searching for the Yeti said...

This is indeed a tough issue, and as a resident of CA I am still very much battling with this in my mind. But, to play the other side, let me throw this out there...maybe I am thinking about it too "lightly" but my issue has always been the backward idea of fixing people before we bring them into the church. How do we hold the balance of believing God love and accepts everyone just as they are - so maybe we marry them in this lifestyle they have chosen and lovingly accept them into our congregations and lives. Sure, this is a lifelong covenant - but the commitment to Christ is an even more important commitment and I think we are, to a certain extent, sacrificing that by pushing people out of the church in our unwillingness to accept a life decision they have made.


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