Is it marriage or not?
Church leaders weigh in on Supreme Court ruling
A week later the nation is still reacting and in some cases reeling over the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.
Some laud it as a landmark civil rights decision. Others, like an eastern Kentucky clerk of courts, would rather face ACLU lawsuits than betray what they call their moral principles.
Locally, the dichotomy of reaction among clergy in the area parallels the national climate. For many the decision will cause a redefining of marriage. That is how Episcopal priest, the Rev. Sallie Schisler of Christ Church in Ironton, sees it.
“I believe the court acted to protect the rights of all. That is their job so I respect the Supreme Court decision,” Schisler said. “The decision will now be incumbent on all denominations to reconsider the theology of marriage, whether you are gay or straight.
“We have all grown up believing marriage is between a man and a woman. Anything that causes us to re-examine what we take for granted is probably a good thing. I think there will be a whole continuum of responses among Christians. Some people will never change their minds and that is fine and some will change their minds, this is fine.”
As far as the Catholic Church, the sacrament of marriage is not possible for a same-sex union, according to Father Charles Moran of St. Ann’s Church in Chesapeake, who sees approaching the ruling in a civil aspect as well as religiously.
“People should have the right to share their time and talent and treasury with another of their choosing, “ he said. “If there is a good friend in the hospital, they should have the right to see that friend.”
However, as far as a religious act, same-sex marriages would go against the teachings of the church.
“As far as religion, we are not talking about a civil union, but we are talking about a Biblical marriage that is between a man and a woman so there can be procreation,” Moran said.
In the Catholic teachings there are three conditions that must be present before a marriage can be considered a sacrament and performed in the church. The marriage must be a freewill act, made as a commitment for life and open to creating children.
“Those are the three things we hold before we do a religious ceremony,” Moran said.
Despite those proscriptions, Moran doesn’t see the court ruling as necessarily a destructive force in society.
“I think it being out in the open gives a greater clarity to the commitment between these individuals,” he said. “Today, we probably have as many breakups in marriage as we do in the homosexual community. People are not willing to commit themselves and nurture something.
“If we can achieve unity, respect and honor for one another, it will not bring (society) down. So much inherent in the way we go about doing things, it creates a sense of separation. We create the differences. We make the differences divine. People embrace their own ideas and form it into an ideology and then are no longer listening to each other.”
Overstepping its bounds is how the Rev. Charles Case, pastor of the Chesapeake United Methodist Church, views the high court’s decision.
“It settled law that should be settled by the people,” Case said. “I feel it is once again setting precedent.”
Right now the Methodist Church nationally does not ordain homosexuals into its ministry or conduct same-sex marriages.
“The United Methodist Church believes homosexual relationships are not compatible with Christian teaching,” he said. “That has been our stance for decades.
I strongly believe that God’s design for humanity is pretty laid out in how we are put together. He has created us male and female. Men and women are very different. That is very important how we complement each other, not only sexually, but how we raise our children and parenting and making a home.”
At an upcoming general convention Case expects the homosexual issue to be brought up with possible requests by some to change the church law.
“The challenges will be how to serve pastorally to folks who identify as homosexual,” he said. “The deepest calling as pastors, the greatest calling of Christians, is to love. How do we best offer our love to homosexuals and transgenders. …It is totally forbidden for doing (marriages). That is the law of the church and that is pretty much in harmony with my personal beliefs.
“I am sure that the pastoral part of me, if and when (church law would be) changed, I can see myself feeling a little saddened not to offer what they desire.”
For Eric Barnes, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ironton, the ruling must be seen in black and white terms: Homosexuality is a sin against God.
“It is a step further away from where we need to be,” Barnes said. “We are stepping further away from God. Anytime we choose or make any choice away from that, we are not acknowledging God as God. That will always affect society and family.”
Like the teachings of the Catholic Church, Barnes said a purpose of marriage is to have children.
“We were created to reproduce one of our own kind,” he said. “We are supposed to multiply people who recognize God and honor God with our lives. (The ruling) definitely affects us as a culture and takes us one step further from God. As a Christian nation, it is a very harsh blow to our society.”