Rev. Charles Drew is pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in New York City, an evangelical church serving Morningside Heights, New York, with a particular focus on Columbia Univeristy, other nearby schools, and the local poor. He is the author of The Ancient Love Song: Finding Christ in the Old Testament, A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World, and Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew.
Not everyone in the church these days is certain on what the Bible actually has to say about same-sex marriage.
There are, of course, those among us who are genuinely unsure about what the Bible teaches on same-sex marriage. What, precisely, some of us wonder, is Paul prohibiting in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6? We feel the force of this question as increasing numbers of those we know, love, and respect are entering same-sex commitments. Perhaps we ourselves have done so.
Even those of us who hold that God intends for marriage to be monogamous and heterosexual have had a range of different responses to the recent Supreme Court decision on the matter:
Some of us are deeply discouraged because that decision so flagrantly denies what we see the Bible to be teaching. We see it signaling a frightening indifference to God's will and to our own heritage as Americans. It is hard for some of us to see how anyone in the church of God can be anything but appalled by what the decision implies about the state of our country and the future freedom of the church.
Others among us are relieved, not because we believe that the Supreme Court is right but because the Court's decision has turned down the heat as we seek to live amicably among our (increasingly numerous) gay friends and relatives. While the laws banning same-sex marriage prevailed, we found it almost impossible to have a nuanced conversation with those friends about our view of the Bible’s teaching on the matter. The perceived injustice made this one issue so dominant that it was hard to get past it in the efforts to communicate about important things with gay friends.
Still others among us feel vindicated by the Supreme Court’s decision. Though we may hold to a traditional view of marriage, we have thought it wrong for the state to impose that view on our diverse nation.
How are we going to navigate these differences in the church? It does not seem right to me that we should ignore them.
Marriage matters, and we ought to be talking with one another about what it is and what will make it stronger. With the political battle behind us, this may be an ideal time to focus on putting our own house in order. How ironic it must seem to the outside world that many of us who have fought so hard to defend traditional marriage are conducting troubled marriages ourselves.
Mission also matters. If we cannot find an informed peace with each other over the ethics and politics of same-sex marriage, it will be hard for us to be a welcoming community for those who are not yet part of the church. We will be too busy fighting with each other, or ignoring each other, or fleeing to churches where everyone agrees with our politics. How, in particular, are we going to present a welcome to gay friends and relatives if we have not talked with each other long enough to figure out what our policy and practice should be?
With the Supreme Court decision behind us, many of us will find that more of our gay friends and neighbors are open about their sexuality as the normalization of homosexuality continues. What are churches and Christian communities that hold to a traditional view of marriage going to do to respond to this shift in our culture? Very little, it seems to me, if we haven’t wrestled honestly and humbly with each other long enough to come up with a plan.
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