Other Christian leaders tell National Review Online they are not eager to follow the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination in saying yes to same-sex marriage.
At its 221st general assembly in Detroit Friday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), which represents 1.7 million American Presbyterians, recognized same-sex marriage as Christian, adding constitutional language to reflect that marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”
The passage of this Authoritative Interpretation immediately approves PCUSA clergy to officiate marriages for same-sex couples. PCUSA already sanctioned the blessing of same-sex unions and has ordained non-celibate gays since 2011. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
While this change accords with the liberal tradition of PCUSA, many other denominations, inlcuding another major Presbyterian sect, remain steadfast in opposition to same-sex marriage. Why do some denominations officially hold a traditional position on marriage while other faith communities, along with most Americans (55 percent in May), adopt a more liberal one?
Differing views of humanity and biblical authority help explain why faith communities vary on the morality of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The Pew Research Center published a report last week showing the breakdown of different religious groups on the issue.
Many denominations with a traditional doctrine of sexuality tend to interpret Scripture in its original context, maintaining the worth and dignity of the human person but including a traditional understanding of gender and marriage as an essential part of that narrative.
The Roman Catholic view of sexuality derives from Scripture but is also supported by natural law and church tradition. Ed Mechmann, deputy director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, tells National Review Online, “It’s an anthropology, encompassing our purpose in life and how we relate to each other.”
In the Catholic account of the creation narrative, God designed the sexes to be complementary.
“Because of that, we would view any kind of sexual relationship or act that doesn’t fit into that, not properly ordered toward their proper end,” Mechmann said. For orthodox Catholics, gender is integrated into human personhood, so that it would be “impossible” for scriptural interpretation to evolve on this issue.
Mechmann added, “We’re not Scripture-only; we look at this with a combination faith and reason.”
Southern Baptists agree that the creation narrative holds the key for understanding gender as a product of being made in God’s image, providing the pattern for heterosexual monogamous marriage. They preserve a Scripture-only doctrine, believing that the Bible is the sole authority on human relationships.