Frank Schaefer, Pennsylvania Pastor, Facing Church Trial Over Gay Marriage
A Pennsylvania pastor charged under United Methodist law with officiating his son's same-sex marriage is scheduled to go on trial.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer could be defrocked if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.
The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching."
The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-sex unions.
Schaefer's trial will take place Monday at a Methodist retreat in Spring City, Pa.
Evangelical churches try to find right balance on gay issues
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Rev. Robert Jeffress has changed the way he talks about homosexualityfrom the pulpit.
The pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Dallas hasn't stopped preaching that homosexual sex is sinful, but he no longer singles it out for special condemnation. Now, Jeffress says he usually talks about homosexuality within "a bigger context of God's plan for sex between one man and one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage."
"It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblical divorce," he said, explaining that the Bible allows divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion. He also includes premarital sex on that list.
The pressure to change the way homosexuality is addressed in evangelical churches is increasing as mainstream support for gay and lesbian issues increases. This support is especially strong among young adults, and researchers say they don't expect this group to become more conservative on the issue as they get older.
In a 2011 survey by the non-profit Public Religion Research Institute, 62 per cent of adults between 18 and 29 years old said they supported gay marriage and 71 per cent supported civil unions. Among adults 65 and older, those numbers were 31 per cent in favour of marriage and 51 per cent for civil unions.
Asked about the perception that "religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues," 69 per cent of the younger group agreed with the statement.
Another recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly 20 per cent of adult Americans now describe themselves as unaffiliated with any specific religion and the problem for evangelical churches is apparent.
"Evangelicals have been sobered by studies that show people are dropping out of church in droves," said Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University's Divinity School. That has affected how they relate to marginalized people, including gays and lesbians.
"I'm amazed at the changes, the softening of the rhetoric to be more compassionate," Leonard said. "There's a realization that the idea of 'love the sinner, hate the sin' comes across as pretty cold."
Demographics isn't the only force driving changes in the evangelical response to gays and lesbians. As it becomes safer for gays and lesbians to come out of the closet, it becomes increasingly more likely that evangelicals know gays and lesbians personally, researchers say.
"Over the last five to 10 years, evangelicals have been faced with the issue even more poignantly as their sons and daughters come out of the closet," Leonard said. " ... It has become more difficult to dismiss 'those people.'"
Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, is one of those children.
Like most evangelicals, Lee grew up believing that the Bible was to be taken pretty much at face value, but in wrestling with the realization that he was gay, he has found a more nuanced way to read Scripture. Now he works to foster understanding of gays and lesbians within evangelical institutions.
"I do hear from church leaders and pastors, who say, 'I already know where I stand, but how can I be more loving and gracious to the gay community without compromising my convictions?'" Lee said. "There are a lot of things I say, but chief among them is that the more you listen to people and ask about their lives and stories, the more you are able to show grace and love, even if you don't agree."
Jeffress, who has gay and lesbian members in his church, tries to be compassionate and understanding.
He said he is open to the possibility that sexual orientation has a genetic basis that cannot be cured or prayed away.
"I think we were too quick to dismiss the possibility of a genetic predisposition," Jeffress said.
But that hasn't altered his belief the Bible teaches that acting on homosexual desire is sinful, and he feels it is his responsibility to talk about it with his congregation.
"We cannot pick and choose what parts of God's word we are called to share," he said. "God gave it to us, not to hurt people, but to help people."
But Jeffress said he was concerned that some other evangelical pastors were shirking this responsibility.
"My sense is that people are just avoiding the subject, by and large," he said. "They are so bent on trying to add to the numbers of their churches that they don't want to disenfranchise new members or be characterized as unfriendly."
Atlanta pastor the Rev. Louie Giglio seems to have taken that approach. After withdrawing from giving the benediction at president Obama's inauguration ceremony because of controversy over a past sermon in which he said same-sex relationships were sinful, Giglio downplayed the significance of the remarks.
In his withdrawal letter, Giglio did not say he had changed his views on homosexuality, but instead noted how old the sermon was and stated, "Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years."
David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, said it is the pastors who are de-emphasizing homosexuality who are attracting more members.
"It's a free-market system," he said, noting that there is no evangelical equivalent of the pope to enforce a certain doctrine.
Groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, are really a loose confederation of independent churches. Although a church could be forced out of the convention, it would not lose its buildings and property, as has been the case with several Episcopal churches that broke with the denomination over the election an openly gay bishop.
And because many evangelical churches are less hierarchical than their mainline Protestant counterparts, changes in attitude or practice can sometimes go under the radar.
"There's never a proclamation. A resolution doesn't pass. It's just that people go silent on the issue," Key said. He said that has happened with everything from slavery to dancing and alcohol consumption.
"The reality is when all of society has moved in a certain direction ... you just have to be silent."
In 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention established a Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals at the urging of pastor Bob Stith.
In its final report to the denomination in June of last year, task force members wrote, "The challenges we face are exponentially greater than they were ten years ago. ...Homosexuality may well be the number one crisis facing the church in this generation."
Nonetheless, the task force dissolved and Stith's position as National Strategist for Gender Issues was left unfunded. Stith has continued his work, thanks to some private donors.
"This issue is not going to go away," he said. "There are too many people sitting in the pews who are in a lot of pain and don't know what to do with it."
Religion News: Pope willing to fight same-sex marriage
Week in Religion
The Pope has signalled he is ready to form alliances with world leaders of other faiths to oppose gay marriage, according to Reuters. The announcement was made during the annual Christmas address and is believed to be a response to several recent laws passed or proposed in the United States and Europe legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.
He also showed his support for a study claiming same-sex marriage would negatively impact children and society, done by France's chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim.
The Pope, who is the religious leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, has denounced same-sex marriage on several occasions, saying "There is no denying the crisis that threatens it (the family) to its foundations - especially in the Western world."
Franco Grillini, a leader in the gay community of Italy, said the Pope's staement was "great foolishness" and pointed out that "Where gay marriage has been approved, there has been no consequence on heterosexual marriage."
Gallup has found that Mississippi is the most religious state in America, with 59 percent of residents saying that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend church service once a week or almost every week. Only seven other states had more than half their population fall into this "very religious" category. They are (in descending order): Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennesee and North Carolina.
"Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action"
Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.
Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.
Read more: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/archive/x2105860587/Religion-News-Pope-willing-to-fight-same-sex-marriage#ixzz2GBspyLoS
Presbyterians reject redefinition of marriage
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly rejected a proposal to change its definition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman to two people.
The Presbyterian General Assembly voted 338-308 against the measure near the end of its national meeting Friday in Pittsburgh.
The plan to revise the definition was proposed a year after the denomination struck down barriers to ordaining people in same-sex relationships. Several theologically conservative churches have either left the denomination or moved away from its leadership as a result of that decision.
Gay marriage advocates have said a revision was needed now that six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.
Only one major U.S. Protestant group has endorsed same-sex marriage outright. That's the United Church of Christ.
Is same-sex marriage really in conflict with scripture?
Presumably, his comment is based on the notion that the Bible sets out the idea of the traditional family. But in a recent column for The Washington Post’s “On Faith” section, author Lisa Miller argued that the Bible “offers no examples of what might be called the ‘traditional family.’ “ She notes that leading figures in the Bible were polygamists, and that King David seduced his neighbor’s wife. Jesus, of course, was unmarried. The apostle Paul considered marriage something only for those who could control their sexual desire.
For centuries, of course, people have cherry-picked the Bible to support their views, for good or ill. A literal interpretation can make for contradictions. Clergy offer prayers before National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association games and NASCAR races on Sundays. Are those organizations keeping the Sabbath holy, as the Fourth Commandment decrees?
Making the case that same-sex marriage violates biblical teaching might be harder than some pastors think. What do you think? Is same-sex marriage really in conflict with scripture?
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 2:56 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackbackfrom your own site.
4 Responses to “Is same-sex marriage really in conflict with scripture?”
Billy Graham urges voters to support marriage amendment
"Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern," said Graham, 93, who lives near Asheville. "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected."
His complete statement about Amendment One will be part of full-page ads slated to appear in 14 North Carolina newspapers throughout the weekend.
Graham's statement was issued by the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is led by Graham's son, the Rev. Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham recorded a message last month in support of Amendment One, which is on the ballot in the election Tuesday.
"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Billy Graham's statement said. "The Bible is clear — God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment" Tuesday.
William Martin, who wrote the authorized Graham biography "A Prophet With Honor," couldn't recall another effort by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association like the one the ministry plans in support of Amendment One.
The elderly evangelist preached often on the need for sexual purity, but rarely spoke about same-sex marriage, Martin said.
"I am somewhat surprised that he would take that strong a stand," said Martin, professor emeritus of religion and public policy at Rice University. "In the past, I have heard him say with respect to homosexuality, there are greater sins. Franklin has been more outspoken about it, but it sounds as if this is Mr. Graham expressing his own will."
Although Graham's last crusade was in 2005, he remains deeply influential. In April 2010, President Barack Obama made the pilgrimage to meet with Graham, continuing a tradition of counseling commanders in chief that began with Dwight Eisenhower.
Since the death of his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, nearly five years ago, he has spent most of his time at his home in Montreat. Public appearances have been rare, and he's been hospitalized several times, most recently in December for pneumonia.
Danny Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, said he's not surprised that Graham took such a strong stand on Amendment One.
"I think he would see this as I do, not so much as a political issue — which it is — but a moral issue," Akin said. "He believes it's right to affirm that marriage should be understood as a covenant between a man and a woman."
Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, also has said she supports the amendment.
North Carolina already outlaws gay marriage, but adding that ban to the state constitution would make it much harder to change in the future. Opponents to the amendment argue the language is vague and it could have wider consequences beyond those for gay couples.
Councilman Ben Gray reintroduced the bill this week, which failed in 2010 on a 3-3 council vote. Meanwhile, an effort to “nullify any LGBT ordinance in Omaha by banning municipal protected classes not enumerated by the state appears to have stalled in the Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee after a hearing last Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, the paper notes today that “Among the 50 largest cities in the nation, Omaha is one of 15 whose gay residents have no specific legal protection from discrimination.” “In the past two years, at least 35 cities and counties in the United States of all sizes have passed anti-discrimination ordinances based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Baptists and the New Civil Rights Movement
Note: The Southern Baptist Convention recently declared that gay rights are NOT civil rights. As a Baptist Christian (though long since removed from the Southern Baptist Convention because of their fundamentalist-led cleansing over 20 years ago), this is my ode to Dick Brogan, a true Southern Baptist hero, and why I believe gay rights ARE the new Civil Rights Movement.
Richard "Dick" Brogan was a personal friend, and he was one of my heroes.
Dick was a white Mississippi Baptist minister who worked tirelessly to build relationships between whites and blacks during segregation and even up until he passed away last year. Not so long ago, Dick was followed, harassed, threatened and derided as a "nigger-lover" because he not only dared speak against segregation, but he dared to act as if in Christ there really was no Jew nor Greek and no black nor white.
Shortly before he died, Dick, a veteran of the civil rights movement, said that gay rights is today's Gospel movement. I believe he was right.
Just consider the role of black churches in leading the civil rights movement, and the role of white churches resisting it (isn't anyone disturbed that we still have to have "black churches" and "white churches"?).
Though Martin Luther King Jr. and other black ministers found liberation and hope in the Bible, some white preachers remained silent while many others openly preached segregation and racial inequality as biblically sound.
"Red birds do not fly with blue birds," white Christians smugly joked, emphasizing "it's just the natural order of things."
With a clear conscience, white church deacons and Sunday School teachers witnessed (and some participated in) lynchings, cross burnings, bombings and mob violence against marchers and sit-in participants. Stories abound in Mississippi of deacons at white churches armed with guns protecting the dignity of worship for the white folks within. They were, after all, defending "the way God intended things to be." After all, black people were tolerated just fine as long as "they stayed in their place."
A Baptist Broadman Commentary from 1970 reminds us that "The people of God are called to renewal in each successive era of their existence."
In the 1950s and 1960s Baptist preachers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Dick Brogan followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit and called the people of God to renewal in a new era of their existence. Through them, God was transforming the religious life of His people, often meeting the greatest resistance through the "guardians" of the Truth and the Faith.
Jesus pleaded with the religious establishment of his day, according to the Broadman Commentary, to "open the life of Israel to the power of the work of the Holy Spirit..."
The larger religious community's response to Jesus was his crucifixion.
And so King, Brogan and others made the same plea. The response to them were death threats, violence, exile, and for King, assassination.
We are in the midst of another renewal; we are in the midst of another set of leaders pleading with the guardians of the Christian establishment to open the life of the Church to the power of the Holy Spirit already at work; and some of the same words are being exchanged and variations of the same expressions of hatred are emerging in response.
There are a growing number of "gay churches" and welcoming and affirming groups pleading with the larger Christian community to recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit among the gay and lesbian community. And many of the long-standing institutionalized "straight churches" are actively resisting the work of God among those whom the "religious guardians" insist are not worthy. (One day, our grandchildren may sigh and ask why there have to be "gay churches" and "straight churches").
"They want their children to go to school with our children! They want to live in the neighborhood we live in! They want the same rights we have!"
"God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," straight Christians smugly joke, "it's just the natural order of things."
And with clear consciences, good church-goers will openly bully, harass and tease their gay neighbors -- trying to get the gays back in the closet ("to keep them in their place").
Despite what almost every single church sign says, openly LGBT people are NOT welcomed in most churches across the South and across America. There may not be deacons armed with guns to keep them out and to protect the dignity of the worship service for the righteous folks within, but Sunday School lessons, book studies and sermons bully them to either stay in the closet or stay out of the church.
When bullying leads to suicide, the church at large -- at best -- sits in silence. At worst, it leads the attack. Too many Baptist pastors are pressured to stay quiet on the issue, while other Baptist pastors continue to verbally terrorize LGBT people sitting quietly in their pews, living quietly in their families and working quietly in their communities.
I am sometimes asked why I continue to write and speak about being a gay-friendly Baptist minister. Then a fellow Baptist pastor answers for me by making national news acting like a 1950s Southern governor justifying racial segregation (not long ago, it was a brother in North Carolina preaching what some have labeled a "beat-the-gay-away" sermon, instructing parents how to deal with boys and girls who may not be masculine enough or feminine enough, respectively).
And like Dick Brogan, deep in my heart, I do believe, that blacks and whites and gays and straights will walk hand-in-hand some day.
Joe The Plumber Laughs Off His Homophobia, "I would'nt have gay people any where near my children"
In his primary on Tuesday night, Samuel Wurzelbacher – aka Joe the Plumber – narrowly defeated Steven Kraus to become the Republican nominee to represent Ohio’s Ninth District. Wurzelbacher, who once said he wouldn’t run for office unless God asked him to, will face Marcy Kaptur in the race to represent the heavily Democratic district. This morning, Wurzelbacher was interviewed on CNN’s “Early Start.” When program host Zoraida Sambolin asked him why he was qualified to serve in Congress, Wurzelbacher seemed to get agitated, saying he was “very much involved in the process of what’s going on.” When the discussion turned to his previous statements about gays and lesbians, like saying he would not let gays and lesbians near his children, the discussion got even more heated:
SAMBOLIN: Have you changed your position on this at all?
WURZELBACHER: So this is TMZ, this isn’t CNN, is what you’re saying?
SAMBOLIN: Of course it’s CNN. These are things that you said, that I would like to know if you still stand by them or if you changed your positions on them.
WURZELBACHER: Listen, in my dictionary, and everyone’s dictionary in 1970s, the word queer did mean strange and unusual. It was [sic] no slur to it. Do you challenge that?
SAMBOLIN: No, I’m just questioning whether or not you still stand on these positions on homosexuality.
WURZELBACHER: I’m trying to get where you’re coming from, what context are you using this in? Come on, you’re trying to do a ‘gotcha’ moment, it’s quite obvious.
Pope denounces U.S. political push to legalise gay marriage
The pope's latest comments in opposition to homosexual marriage came in an address to bishops from several Midwestern states on a regular visit to the Vatican.
"Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage," he said.
He added that the traditional family and marriage had to be "defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature" because, he said, whatever injured families injured society.
"In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage (in the United States)," he added in a clear reference to gay marriage.
Last week Maryland legalised same-sex marriage.
Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and the District of Columbia currently allow gay and lesbian weddings.
Washington State will join the list in June unless opponents stop it ahead of a possible referendum, and Maryland will be added in January 2013 unless its law, too, is overturned by a threatened referendum in November.
Benedict called on American bishops to continue their "defence of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation".
The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalise gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.
NEW CARDINAL LEADING OPPONENT
One leading opponent of gay marriage in the United States is New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was elevated to cardinal last month.
Dolan fought against gay marriage before it became legal in New York state last June, and in September he sent a letter to President Barack Obama criticising his administration's decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage.
In that letter Dolan, who also holds the powerful post of president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, said such a policy could "precipitate a national conflict between Church and state of enormous proportions".
The Roman Catholic Church, which has some 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are, and that children should grow up in a traditional family with a mother and a father.
Gay marriage is legal in a number of European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands.
Some other Christian Churches that have allowed gay marriage, women priests, gay clergy and gay bishops have been losing members to Catholicism, and the Vatican has taken steps to facilitate their conversion.
While still controversial in the United States, same-sex marriage has been gaining acceptance recently. New Jersey passed a gay marriage law through both legislative houses, though the legislation was vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Christie.
An appeals court overturned California's ban on gay marriage, enacted through a 2008 referendum.