Benson | AFA Journal Associate Editor
Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) is a Presbyterian. However, on February
28, he told a gathering of homosexual parents that those who oppose
same-sex marriage are "forces of bigotry and hatred."
Two days later he invoked numerous Bible passages to argue against
a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would protect a scriptural view
Dayton is one of many American churchgoers and leaders whose personal
opinion about same-sex marriage is out of accord with his own churchs
creeds. Historic Presbyterian doctrine holds that marriage is to
be only between one man and one woman.
While such differences in doctrine and practice threaten schism
in mainline churches, many Biblically conservative groups have reaffirmed
orthodox teachings about the nature of marriage.
The following is a survey of selected church positions that define
stated beliefs about marriage.
The Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholics offer what is arguably the most comprehensive and
lengthy declaration in Christendom in support of a Biblical view
of marriage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, an authoritative
reference to Roman Catholic belief, states, "Everyone, man
and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.
Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity
are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of
family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in
part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual
support between the sexes are lived out."
In the section "The Love of Husband and Wife" the catechism
teaches: "Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man
and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes
a sign and pledge of spiritual communion."
The catechism also declares homosexual acts to be "intrinsically
disordered," "contrary to the natural law," and "under
no circumstances [to] be approved."
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian group in the
U.S. with 64.6 million members.
The largest U.S. Protestant denomination is the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC) with 16.4 million members. Although the SBC is
careful to state that Scripture is the final authority on all matters
of faith and practice, they offer this statement in their Baptist
Faith and Message: "Marriage is the uniting of one man
and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is Gods
unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and
to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for
intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according
to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human
A Policy Statement on Family Life from American Baptist Churches
in the USA, membership approximately 1.5 million, says: "We
affirm that God intends marriage to be a monogamous, life-long,
one flesh union of a woman and a man.
The National Baptist Convention USA, a large African American denomination
(five million members) did not respond to phone calls concerning
However, on March 23, two dozen African-American pastors rallied
at a Missionary Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia, to distance
themselves from the claim by gay activists that same-sex marriage
is a civil right. The pastors signed a declaration supporting a
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and promoting marriage as
only between one man and one woman.
The United Methodist Church (UMC), with 8.25 million members, is
the second largest Protestant denomination in the country. For 30
years the UMC has been a battleground for homosexual activists,
who have gained major concessions in church life.
Still, the UMC Book of Discipline, Social Principles section,
says: "We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that
is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared
fidelity between a man and a woman."
Ironically, Rev. Karen Dammann, the lesbian UMC pastor in Washington
recently found not guilty of trespassing church law, was recently
"married" to her homosexual partner. (See story page
The Church of the Nazarene, a smaller and theologically more
conservative denomination from the Wesleyan tradition, is unequivocal
in their support for traditional marriage. Their 2001-2005 Manual,
the denominations official position: "The institution
of marriage was ordained by God in the time of mans innocence,
and is, according to apostolic authority, honourable in all;
it is the mutual union of one man and one woman for fellowship,
helpfulness, and the propagation of the race."
The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is the nations third largest
Protestant church (5.49 million members) and largest African-American
denomination. In a statement addressing same-sex marriage, issued
on March 30 from their international headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee,
Presiding Bishop G. E. Patterson said COGIC "stands firmly
against same-sex marriages because we believe it to be contrary
to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures."
The statement from COGIC also took issue with those who argue that
same-sex marriage is a civil right: "Homosexuality is a lifestyle;
it is not to be compared with a minority ethnic group such as Blacks
or Jews. It is a lifestyle that has destroyed every civilization
of the past that embraced it."
Assemblies of God (AOG) is the eighth largest Protestant denomination
in the U.S. with 2.68 million members. Their Position Paper on
Homosexuality includes this belief statement: "The biblical
order for human sexual expression is that of an intimate physical
relationship to be shared exclusively within a lifelong marriage
covenant a heterosexual and monogamous relationship."
Position Papers are official documents of the AOG and have been
approved by its highest legislative bodies.
A smaller denomination in the Pentecostal tradition, The Church
of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), instructs their membership that:
"Marriage is ordained of God and is a spiritual union in which
a man and a woman are joined by God to live together as one"
(Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7).
Those working for societys full acceptance of homosexuality
have made no greater institutional inroads than in the liberal Episcopal
Church, USA. Case in point, the denomination consecrated a practicing
homosexual man as bishop during its annual convention last August.
Despite the Episcopal Churchs leading role in promoting same-sex
marriage, the official standard of the church, the Book of Common
Prayer in several passages refers solely to "woman and
man" as those to be married. From the section titled The
Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage: "Dearly beloved:
We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless
the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended
by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one
another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is Gods
will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge
and love of the Lord."
In the Episcopal Church, the Book of Common Prayer, is the
definitive descriptive expression of Episcopal beliefs.
The largest Presbyterian body in the nation, The Presbyterian Church
in the United States (PCUSA), maintains doctrinal standards which
state that a Christian marriage is one in which "a lifelong
commitment is made by a woman and a man to each other
However, the PCUSA supports extending "gay and lesbian couples
access to the civil status of civil marriage and to share fully
and equally in the rights and responsibilities of that status,"
according to Rev. Elenora Gidding, director of the Washington, D.C.,
office of the PCUSA. Gidding made the comment at a March 3 press
conference prior to the U.S. Senate hearings on the Federal Marriage
Amendment. She clearly stated that the PCUSA opposes such a constitutional
amendment to protect the traditional definition of marriage.
As further evidence of support for the homosexual political agenda
among PCUSA leadership, last summer the PCUSA named a radical feminist
pastor to its highest elected post. Susan Andrews, pastor of Bradley
Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, is on record as
saying it is her "fondest dream" that the PCUSA remove
its ban on ordaining practicing homosexuals.
PCUSA pastor Parker T. Williamson, editor-in-chief of the Presbyterian
Layman, calls Andrews selection an "unfortunate"
vote by the General Assembly.
"Susan Andrews stands for everything that has caused the decline
of this once great denomination," Williamson said. "She
is part of an organization called the Covenant Network of Presbyterians
that has been lobbying for the full inclusions of gays, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgendered persons into the leadership of the church."
The Presbyterian Church In America is a smaller, theologically conservative
group that split from the liberal mainline church 30 years ago.
Their primary expression of orthodoxy is the Westminster Confession
of Faith (WCF), written in the 1640s. The WCF chapter
titled "Of Marriage and Divorce" begins with the statement:
"Marriage is to be between one man and one woman
At their General Assembly in June 2003, the PCA used that WCF
language in a resolution to reaffirm the denominations
strong stand for a Biblical view of marriage.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the fourth
largest Protestant group in the U.S. with 5.3 million members. According
to Religious Tolerance.org, a Web site that "promotes religious
diversity as a positive cultural value," ELCA is one of the
most liberal denominations in the country.
In 2001 the Churchwide Assembly called for the development of a
study on homosexuality, which is due in 2005. The purpose of the
study is "to deal with the blessing of same-gender unions and
the rostering of persons in committed gay or lesbian relationships."
A companion denominational study guide titled "Journey Together
Faithfully," asks ELCA members "to consider how this church
should respond to the requests to bless same-sex unions and to ordain,
consecrate, or commission people in committed same-sex unions."
Meanwhile, the document A Message on Sexuality: Some Common Convictions,
adopted by the Church Council in 1996, states: "Marriage is
a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman."
The smaller Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, remains faithful in
belief and practice to Biblical teachings on marriage. A pastoral
letter in March 2004, from Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, president of
The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, states, "We are against
[same-sex marriage] in no uncertain terms. The definition of marriage
must always be what it always has been: the loving, permanent relationship
between one man and one woman.
If it takes an amendment to
the U.S. Constitution to preserve the timeless and holy definition
of marriage in our country, then I am in favor of it."
into these groups who are working to return their churches to Biblical
The American Anglican Council
1110 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Institute for Religion and Democracy
Association for Church Renewal
1110 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Confessing Movement within the UMC
7995 East 21st Street
Indianapolis, IN 46219
A Confessing Movement within the PCUSA
diocese developing same-sex blessing liturgy
Two priests who favor same-sex blessings are leading an Episcopal
diocesan task force to develop a same-sex blessing ceremony that
is "classically Anglican in tone and format."
Revs. Michael W. Hopkins and Susan N. Blue have already performed
several same-sex blessing ceremonies in the Episcopal diocese
of Washington, D.C. The rite, requested by Bishop John B. Chane,
should be ready by June.
"We want to make sure theres a standard in the diocese,
so that what is used is good liturgy," Hopkins told The Washington
Times. "Having a standard will help many other congregations
to consider it, who are not performing it now."
The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer does not contain a
same-sex ceremony and Episcopalians declined to approve such a
rite at their General Convention in Minneapolis in August, 2003.