The debate over marriage equality should never be reduced (as the opponents would like) to a simplistic opposition of Christianity (or faith, more broadly) against gay rights. There are secular arguments in favour of gay marriage – and secular arguments against. (Not the least important of these is recognition that historically, marriage has been deeply flawed as a patriarchal institution rooted in fundamental inequality, which needs to be replaced with new, more just patterns of human relationships). There are familiar religious arguments against – and also, many important religious arguments in favour.
In a superb collection of posts, all published on the same day (June 22nd), Huffington Post has assembled a series of multi-faith perspectives on the spiritual gifts of gay marriage, all contributed by gay or lesbian pastors from a range of religious traditions. They are:
- Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Episcopal priest and poet/writer in residence, Los ,Angeles Cathedral of St Paul
- Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, founder of Whosoever www.whosoever.org online magazine for GLBT Christians, and ordained pastor.
- Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, theologian, seminary professor, and ordained minister with the Metropolitan Community Church.
- Bishop Yvette Flunder, senior pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco
- Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool
- The Rev. Emily C. Heath, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC)
- Rabbi Andrea Myers, author and a member of the New York Board of Rabbis
- Dr. Emilie M. Townes, an American Baptist clergywoman, and Professor of African American Religion and Theology
- Larry Yang, teacher of Buddhist meditation
I’m not going to even try to summarize the points of view (read them for yourselves, all of them, or pick and choose the faith traditions that interest you). But I will share here the links, and opening statements.
I am married to Mark Thompson, another gay man. We have been together 27 years. In order to speak of this with any depth or integrity, however, I find it necessary to look back and relate the past to the present. The past? It must include years of pain and deprivation when we were considered outsiders in the prevalent culture, persons somehow mentally and emotionally defective, enemies of prevailing society, spiritually notorious sinners, and shadowy figures threatening humanity by our very existence.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” — Song of Solomon 8: 6-7
“I, Candace, now take you, Wanda, to be my Life Partner, to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live. And now, to you and to God, I make this solemn vow and promise.”
(Rev. Patrick S. Cheng)
Michael and I have experienced a healthy dose of grace in our relationship over the last two decades. First of all, falling in love itself is an act of grace. Love — whether same-sex or opposite-sex — is a manifestation of God’s amazing grace precisely because it cannot be planned or earned. Love is not just a matter of works, but rather of grace.
Religion and Gay Marriage ( Bishop Yvette Flunder)
Volumes have been written about heterosexual marriage while very little has been written supporting the development of strong stable faith-filled Same Gender Loving (SGL) couples and families. The family, straight or SGL, is an integral part of the faith community. Defining relationships and family for SGL people is a struggle in itself; however the stability of these relationships is foundational to the stability of the community.
(Bishop Mary Glasspool)
One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church, in which I am privileged to serve, is the Church’s use of sacraments in its rich, liturgical life. As a child growing up in the Episcopal Church, I had to memorize the definition of a sacrament: A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as a sure and certain means by which we receive that grace. So in the sacrament of Baptism, the outward and visible sign was water, and the inward and spiritual grace was the baptized being grafted and incorporated into Christ’s Body, the Church. In the sacrament of Holy Communion or the Eucharist, the outward and visible signs were the bread and wine and water, the inward and spiritual grace was being spiritually fed and nurtured by Christ’s sacrificial giving.
The Rev. Emily C. Heath
Five months from today, I will say “I do.” I preach every Sunday and yet these will probably be the holiest words I ever say. Words forged in the soul despite the words of the world. Words that signify a commitment in an era where commitments are often ignored. Words that speak justice in the face of bias. I can’t wait to say them. I can’t wait to live a life of the everyday holy with the woman I love.
Rabbi Andrea Myers
My family and I just moved to Montreal. In contrast with the United States, where it took my Canadian partner eight years to get a green card, for this move, she could simply sponsor me as her spouse. In “the true north strong and free,” we are getting used to calling each other “wife.” As our attorney, who resembled the mysterious lawyer Kobayashi from the movie “The Usual Suspects” stated emphatically: “Madame, you are simply too old to be called ‘Miss,’ and you are married in our country, therefore you are both ‘Mrs.’ It is important to get used to this as soon as possible.” I wanted to answer: “That’s Rabbi Mrs. to you,” but the other Rabbi Mrs. kicked me under the table to keep the proceedings going.
(Dr. Emilie M. Townes)
The bottom line for me is not “gay marriage” but “marriage.” When folks, whoever they may be, find that the only word that expresses the commitment they make to one another is marriage — we should celebrate this and give them all the support we can for it is no small thing to live out vows that are marked by “forever.”
(Dr Larry Yang)
When asked to write something on same-sex marriage and Buddhist practice, I decided that I did not want to get into the issue of sexuality and the act of sex between people of the same sex. I decided this not because there is something to be avoided or be ashamed of (there is not a single word in any of the 20+ volumes of Buddhist scriptures which does not permit sexuality between lay people of the same sex), but because the act of sex is different than the act of marriage.
Obvious ommissions? Catholics and Muslims. There are not many examples of Catholic priests or nuns who are legally married to same – sex partners, but they do exist – and have paid a heavy price for it (Bernard Lynch and John McNeill are obvious examples). There are Muslim examples too. Neither of these groups were represented in the Huffpost series, so I will hunt down their takes, and post them separately.
(With thanks and acknowledgement to the ever useful More Light Presbyterians, where I was first alerted to the series)
- My Catholic Vision of Marriage.
- Gay Marriage: Listen to your head and heart, not the Bishops’ bluff and bluster
- Theologian James Alison: Same – sex Unions Are Not Second – Best.
- Religion and Gay Marriage – No Longer in Conflict
- English Bishops: God’s Grace in Gay Marriage
- The Amazing Grace of Marriage Equality (mlp.org)
- African American and Latino Clergy Support Marriage Equality (mlp.org)
- Just in time for Pride (commonwealmagazine.org)
- Kameron Slade’s speech on gay marriage (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)
- Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania would offer same-sex blessings (pennlive.com)
- David Blankenhorn Drops Opposition to Gay Marriage (nytimes.com)
- Gay marriage supporters welcome leading critic’s change of heart (guardian.co.uk)
- Senate committee finds in favour of gay marriage (abc.net.au)
- 70% of Britons are in favour of allowing gay marriage (standard.co.uk)
- Does Gay Marriage Destroy Marriage? (slate.com)
- Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight (wnd.com)
- Many of faith support same-sex marriage (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)