How One Christian Minister Justifies Same Sex Marriage

Some months ago, I posted a photo on my Facebook page of the living room wedding of Sean and Ron. Finally! A legal wedding in OKThere I am, saying the words that ministers always say at weddings; there they are, saying the words that couples always repeat to one another. But then the moment turned while we weren’t looking and before anyone knew it, we were all wiping tears from the corners of our eyes; the little living room had become holy ground.

After I posted the picture, a dear friend private messaged me and asked: How can I, a Christian minister, justify performing a same sex wedding? This is a long time friend (a friendship that goes back to college) and even though our lives have grown in different directions, we stay in touch and care deeply about each other. The question turned into an in depth theological, sociological and political email conversation over a period of several months. My short answer: I can justify it because it is just.

Here are some brief excerpts from my part of the conversation during our correspondence. Nothing definitive here; simply a part of my ongoing thinking.

Theological Justification

My standard is the gospel itself: God – in Jesus Christ – has accomplished reconciliation for all. In the classic Christian understanding, this reconciliation means there is “no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female” (words of the apostle Paul). And I will add to this list ANY situation of humankind that historically has served to separate us from one another: black, white, brown, blue, red, old, young, gay, straight. The gospel claims that none of these differences has the power to divide us any longer. And yes I believe “gay and straight” are part of the essence of a person and so appropriately included here.

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And then there is our proper response to the gospel: because we are welcomed into God’s amazing grace and unconditional love, we respond with love. We love God. We love our neighbors. Period.

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One cannot argue marriage equality from Scripture; it’s just not there. But I do dare to argue for the gospel and its good news of wide and radical grace. I dare to argue for justice and to challenge the Church to live up to that bold standard. If marriage is to be sacred (and I believe that it is) then people who make that kind of spiritual and holy commitment to one another honor God and honor Love. If radical grace and justice are at work, no one can use the Bible to justly claim that such faithful love is not valid.

Sociological Justification

Historically, some parts of the American Church have lagged behind the secular culture when it comes to applying justice and equity to many significant social issues: slavery, civil rights, women’s rights and now the human rights of our gay brothers and sisters. I’m ever so grateful for civil law which has forced Americans to move away from some of our entrenched prejudiced practices – at least in part. On slavery and civil rights, too much of the Church came along kicking and screaming. On the human rights of women and gays – too many Christians continue to dig in their heels and refuse to budge. So be it. But at least I want the law of the land to insist that Americans treat each other with equity and justice. The changing of a human heart (I want to believe) will follow in time.

 Political Justification

Theology and Bible has been our discussion, responding to your original question: how can I (as a Christian minister) justify performing a same sex wedding. We are arguing Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason according to our different Christian understandings and we obviously have different opinions. But Civil Law is another conversation altogether. The marriage license is a civil contract, issued with appropriate conditions such as any license should be. Drivers license, medical license, contractors license… The State does have authority to set standards and determine to whom it will grant some kinds of licenses. But look at the standards and the practice for marriage licenses. IMG_1395The state of Texas will grant marriage licenses to people past their childbearing years, licenses to murderers on death row, licenses to mixed race couples, licenses to those convicted of domestic violence, licenses to special needs citizens, licenses to people on their death beds, licenses for a 2nd and even 22nd marriage. Since the State has judged that its business is not to decide who is “worthy” of marriage based on who they are or what they have done in all these other situations, there is no legal justification for the State to deny a marriage license to a same sex couple. It is the government’s obligation to ensure justice for all. That’s exactly why “marriage equality” is the correct term and concept.

Bottom Line

Years ago, when I was still struggling to understand homosexuality, still working to make sense of what was (for me) a troubling and complex issue, I came to a crossroads. I remember the day I made this decision: If God is going to judge me, I would much rather be judged for being inclusive than for being exclusive; to risk welcoming rather than to risk rejecting. I throw myself at the mercy of the God-Who-Is-Love as I seek to love others without judgment and condition. And in order for my always inadequate effort of love to even begin to approach the wideness of Divine Love, it must be on-the-ground practical; it cannot be in word only. This “issue” is no longer complex or troubling for me; the gospel is radically clear. So that is how I “justify” celebrating and officiating for same sex marriages – because I believe with all my heart that this is just.

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I’m sharing my own words here; I don’t have permission to share what my friend said in reply, but please know the thoughtful, well-reasoned conversation kept both of us on our toes. I still appreciate the wisdom and grace that came to me in that dialogue.

My friend and I did not change each others’ minds; that really wasn’t the purpose of our conversation. Rather this effort to be honest and clear about our differences of opinion sharpened and refined both of us. This effort to discuss “our sincere differences sincerely” (my friend’s excellent phrase and the title of an earlier blog) helped us know one another better so that during this respectful dialogue, our respect for each other as friends and human beings grew.

I doubt articulating my arguments for marriage equality in a cyberspace blog will change anyone’s mind, but that’s not really the purpose. The point is the conversation: open, honest, soul searching, respectful.

The human mind will change when it is good and ready to change. A well articulated argument might help that process along, but I believe it is not words that cause us to grow as human beings; rather it is relationships.

Sean and Ron and I stood in that living room and said all the right words but it wasn’t just the words that made our eyes well with tears. It was the reality of loving commitment to one another; it was the bright and beautiful ideal to which the words point that transformed something simple into something profound.

Loving one another.

Period.

Holy Ground.

 

cvclogo copyCharlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith and politics. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

 

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Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national president for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page. Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

7 thoughts on “How One Christian Minister Justifies Same Sex Marriage”

  1. It’s God job to judge not ours to begin with. Jesus said “let him without sin cast the first stone” that’s the standard we have to use. I have enough of my own sins to worry about i have no time to worry about anybody else’s!

  2. This is the best argument from a minister I have ever heard. I have long said the same things. God told us to love everyone and not judge. It is between them and God what they do (homosexuals) and between me and God what I do, I believe that the fact that I chose to accept and support my gay friends is acting as God/Jesus would wish me to. God knows in my heart that I was trying to follow his teachings as I understand them and will judge me on that as well as the other aspects of my life. In my opinion, if we give marriage lisences to people who have divorced over and over again, we have no right to put any judgement on anyone else’s marriage choices…I have to admit I have had numerous “discussions” about this with “Christian” people who disagree with me and quote Sodom and Gomorrah to me. Or try to say they are not judging, but it is wrong for the law to allow it…SMH…I am going to share this story on FB…no it won’t likely change any minds, but it will hopefully at least give people something to think about….

  3. A very good way to make this discussion concise. It can easily become heavy laden with words in attempt to change another’s views. In your blog, it merely states some very good reasons to justify same sex marriage. Not bogged down with too much reasoning. A great example of keeping something simple enough for others to think through it themselves.

      1. The first thing God said about marriage is “It is not good for man to be alone.”

        Jesus exempted Born Eunuchs from heterosexual marriage in Matthew 19:12.

        So what other moral option for Born Eunuchs not called to celibacy is there except for same sex marriage?

        Out of 31,000+ verses, there is not one passage of Scripture that condemns same sex marriage.

        There are only 3 reasons same sex marriage is never condemned in Scripture:

        1) God forgot to mention it

        2) God didn’t see it coming

        3) God never intended same sex marriage to be condemned.

        Take your pick.

        This is a guided “power point” tour that walks viewers through a side-by-side comparison of the Scriptures containing both Jesus’ and Apostle Paul’s teachings on marriage, adultery and divorce. I believe it reveals Jesus taught LGBT people are naturally born so in Matthew 19:12, and that Apostle Paul ordained Same Sex Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9.

        Let me know if you spot any errors.

        Video Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td0OKPUBPaQ

        Text Version: http://brianbowenministries.com/ch-2-eunuch-marriages.html

  4. Charlotte, I am a Methodist lay speaker with the Detroit, Texas, charge. When my pastor urged me to become a lay speaker, I knew I didn’t want to be guilty of teaching error no matter Methodist doctrine. I had had some Hebrew years ago, and started again with a tutor. I’m sure you know that our English translations differ from the original languages. Several years later I began friendships with gay people who just happened to be Christians. I began to question the Holy Spirit, who led me to a monent when I decided to err on the side of love. I discovered in my studies that nowhere in the entire Bible does God condemn gay people. I have made a 180° turn from the teaching of my youth. I praise God He was able to change my heart on this.

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