Saturday, July 12, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage: The ELCA and California, Compared

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in its Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality ( maintains the tradition that “Marriage is a structure of mutual promises between a man and woman blessed by God (Mark 10:7-9) and authorized in a legal arrangement required by the state.” (lines 1005 - 1007) The draft continues: “After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.” (lines 1116 - 1117) And, further, “This church recognizes the historic origin of the term “marriage” as a life-long and committed relationship between a woman and man, and does not wish to alter this understanding.” (lines 1151 - 1153)

Compare this with the opinion of Chief Justice George of the California Supreme Count who, in May, 2008, wrote in the majority opinion overturning the ban on same-sex marriage that “The right to marry represents the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with a person of one’s choice and, as such, is of fundamental significance both to society and to the individual.” Like the ELCA, Chief Justice George conceded that “as an historical matter in this state marriage has always been restricted to a union between a man and a woman.” But, unlike the ELCA, he maintained that “tradition alone” does not justify the denial of a fundamental constitutional right. Furthermore, when lawyers for the state identified two interests to justify reserving the term marriage for heterosexual unions - tradition and the will of the majority. Chief Justice George said neither was sufficient. (“New York Times” May 16, 2008) Apparently Justice George thinks that equality and justice are more important than tradition and consensus.

Equality and justice are hallmarks of the Gospel. In “Reforming Christianity" (2001), Don Cupitt points out that as the Church loses influence because of its ridigity and fear, signs of the Kingdom often appear “on earth” in secular society. Justice George’s ruling is such a sign. In contrast, the ELCA, fearful of losing its conservative base, has forsaken the Gospel in regard to same-sex marriage and is hiding behind “tradition and lack of consensus.” If Jesus had based his ministry on tradition and consensus, he would be long forgotten. As equality and justice prevail for gay people, the ELCA will be ignored and then forgotten. The ELCA should hear the Gospel and proclaim it, because the Gospel is to way to life. If the ELCA proclaims the Gospel, it will live. Otherwise, it’s dead.

1 comment:

Franklyn said...

YES1 The Church has been an impediment to the development of ethical and spiritual development since it became preoccupied with maintaining its power and position. What is needed to grow emotionally and spiritualy is the freedom and encouragement to look within oneself, not rules and regulations. Indeed, such rules are sought after in order to avoid growth and change.