A growing number of UMC clergy are performing same-sex weddings in open defiance of the Book of Discipline. What happens next?
A few years ago, my family started sponsoring a child through World Vision. I knew that the organization was generally evangelical, and that we are generally not. But this massive parachurch organization does good work, and I trusted them enough for a minuscule portion of that good work to be on our behalf. For 35 dollars a month, we’ve been contributing to the health, education, and general welfare of a little girl in Haiti, who was born the same day as our older daughter. Whatever theological differences I have with World Vision seem immaterial to this. Theological differences may be slightly more material for some of the organization’s conservative supporters.
I sometimes envy my colleagues whose denominations have already fought this issue out, voted and moved on. We Disciples don't work that way.
On Tuesday, the general assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a resolution calling on the church in all its expressions to affirm the faith, baptism, and spiritual gifts of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This was timely, given the Defense of Marriage Act decision, though the resolution doesn’t specifically mention same-sex marriage. Nor does it mention ordination—the other hot-button issue around sexuality in the church—though it does affirm that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is “grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church.”
I spent last week on a rural island in Wisconsin, where the Century was cosponsoring the Wisconsin Council of Churches' annual summer forum. It was a great event. It was also a pretty momentous news week, and there I was away from the office and mostly offline. Since returning I've been taken aback by just how much more ink the Supreme Court's Defense of Marriage Act decision has gotten than its Voting Rights Act decision.
Matt Yglesias is right that public policy must deal with the broad abstractions of the common good, not just with issues that affect lawmakers personally. And Anne Thériault is certainly right that a woman's value, dignity and rights are not contingent on who cares about her personally. Still, both posts seem too dismissive of the role personal relationships play in our formation, our view of the world, our very personhood.
National Organization for Marriage board chair John C. Eastman recently called adoption a “second-best option” for children. He was speaking to the Associated Press about Chief Justice John Robert’s position on the rights of same-sex couples: “Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option.” The comment reveals less about adoptive families than about Eastman’s willingness to jettison religious tradition for political gain.
Nowhere has our callow politics asserted itself more thoughtlessly and noisily than in the politicization of personal or private life.
In a recent editorial calling for same-sex marriage to be legal, the Century editors noted that if and when legalization happens at the national level, the First Amendment will protect religious groups that have their own position on the question. The government won’t, for example, be able to force a church or minister to perform a same-sex wedding against their will. Yet as Mark Silk notes, a range of religious liberty questions will likely have to be addressed—and probably litigated.
A specifically Christian understanding of marriage doesn't insist on procreation. It insists that marriage mirrors God's fidelity.