Why the PC(USA) can grow because of marriage equality

June 21, 2014

During this General Assembly, the PC(USA) made some historic moves. One of the main ones was that there was an authoritative interpretation passed so that pastors who serve in states where marriage equality is legal can preside over those ceremonies.

Now, I’m hearing from those who didn’t agree with the vote saying that with marriage equality, our decline will be greater than it has been in the past. What odd logic. We were declining for years when we had policies that barred LGBTQ people from being ordained. And now, somehow allowing for same-sex couples to have their union blessed by God in a church means we're going to decline faster? If you're on a road to decline, don't you want to switch directions? Well, that's what we've done.

Of course, in the short run, that will be true. Churches have been poised to leave the denomination if this passes. And, our church has a median age of 61, which means there will be membership loss. But, I want to assure those who are nervous, it’s going to be okay. 

After serving growing churches, I know that people have been attracted to our church because we upheld LGBTQ rights. This is why we can grow, because of this decision:

Young adults overwhelmingly support LGBTQ rights. According to Pew Research, about 70% of Millennials support marriage equality. Guess what? The 30% is probably already going to another church. So, it’s a good plan to focus on the 70%.

The old-school evangelical church is declining because of their attitudes towards LGBTQ people. For many years, people have told us evangelical churches were growing because of their doctrinal purity. But, as a refugee from the conservative Southern Baptist Church, I can tell you, homophobia combined with asking women to “graciously submit” and not use birth control pills, is not a strategy that will hold up with . . . almost anyone.

We’ve watched the exodus of younger generations. We've seen emerging churches mature. We've witnessed a movement of evangelicals embrace a more compassionate faith. Now the Southern Baptists are grieving losses as well. I don’t want to sound smug about this. Leaving my Baptist roots was the most painful thing I’ve ever done and I'm distressed when someone leaves church. I’m just saying that so-called doctrinal purity is causing decline in many cases, not stemming it.

God is love, and we live by the rule of love. I know that people say that we have lost our way. This vote indicates that we don’t believe in Jesus. We don’t believe in God. We are bowing and bending to the whims of culture. God will punish us, the Spirit will stop moving among us.

I say we’re living by the rule of love. We have witnessed men and women who have been forced to lie about who they are. We have watched spouses being denied access to Intensive Care Units. We have seen the heartbreak—a widow who could not claim her wife’s property or a teen who becomes homeless—that religious attitudes can cause. We have seen as people have been denied health care. We have watched lives destroyed because people thought that they had to choose between God or claiming their sexual identity. In all of this, we want to listen to the words of Jesus who commands us to “love one another.” “They will know we are Christians by our love.” God is love. When we make decisions of this magnitude, love is our rule.

We have studied the Bible. When people say that we have gone away from a biblical view of marriage, I wonder if they've ever read the Bible. Polygamy, political alliances, arranged marriages, handmaids, and women who are on the same level as chattel—this is the stuff of biblical marriage. Marriage evolves, and thank God, it has evolved since the days of Hagar.

Parents want their children to be rooted in a loving community. If a person is not gay or lesbian, then they usually have someone in their family or circle of friends who is. We don’t want our kids growing up in a spiritual environment that teaches discrimination.

We are planting new churches. The PC(USA) celebrated planting over 260 new worshiping communities. That, my friends, is how you grow. Not by denying rights to loving couples. 


New breeze already blowing

A new gay couple came to our church this past Sunday because they'd heard somewhere about the General Assembly decision to allow ministers freedom of conscience. They stayed for the after-worship study and signed up for a small group. Made me smile.

The Biblical View of Marriage

I just wanted to say one thing about your articles' characterization of "Biblical marriage." You state that these evangelicals haven't read their bible with its polygamy and arranged marriages. But you mistake. You are making the grave error of saying, "The Bible records it, so it must endorse it." That's simply not true, and it's indicative of not being able to read narratives and understand their point or by not reading them enough.

If you read the old testament and take note of every polygamous marriage, you would find that it is certainly not held up as the ideal. See: http://takeupandread.net/?p=45

promoting a harmful viewpoint

The real considerations in the debate about same-sex marriage pertain to something about which we all have many years of personal experience, and that is the distinctive strengths of men and the distinctive strengths of women. These of course were once routinely exaggerated, mainly to the disadvantage of women, and so in the last several decades we are being told essentially that psychological gender differences are mere social constructs – an impression that paves the way for gay marriage. It has made possible the assertion that so long as a child has two parents it makes no difference if either the mother is missing or the father is missing.

Brain science, however, has grown meteorically during the same period in which pop culture has been blurring the genders, and the research has measured important strengths in each gender. For instance, a hormone called progesterone in a woman multiplies about fortyfold during pregnancy, and that both motivates and equips a woman in a special way to nurture a child. Complementing brain science are the recent findings of social psychology, which point to the distinctive strengths of women, thereby making it clear that awareness of psychological differences based on gender is not at all to the disadvantage of women, who tend to be more discerning in closer personal relationships.

What is affirmed in the culture tends to proliferate. For instance, the tendency to denigrate the strengths of men in family life, while glamorizing the hook-up culture, has helped to multiply the percentage of fatherless children about eightfold during the last half century, and father-absence is the best predictor of criminality and other negative social conditions affecting all of us. Marriage has always been a form of special support, not just a live-and-let-live right, such as free speech. A revitalized emphasis on the specific strengths of fathers and the specific strengths of mothers will restore a healthy focus on the cornerstone of social stability.

Your logic

Carolyn, I am not sure I agree with your logic and your summation
that the consensus around these issues is as a foregone conclusion.
I think is a mistake. When you stay in one stream (progressive or
conservative) and that is where you get all your information,
then you tend to be rather myopic. And that can be
a detriment to all involved.

We are the body of Christ and individually members of it. We are not
homogenous. We are diverse and unique and the most challenging
thing is to hold space for everyone, especially when we don’t agree
with them. When people start to assume anything about anyone,
then we are in trouble.


Thank you for these arguments not often expressed in all the furor over the PCUSA's recent moves. I've sometimes said in jest that marriage should again be between a man and his neighbor's property. You touch on just the point I'm making.