On Sunday afternoon, August 27, members of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, voted to all the performance of same-sex wedding ceremonies in the same way they do of couples of different sexes. Virtually every other church in Macon and in the country faces the same divisive issue. It is vital to every church and denomination to not only have a policy but also to articulate a polite and proper defense for whatever position they hold.
Since I have researched the topic for several years and have friends who are part of the LGBT community as well, it is a personal and public responsibility and privilege to defend my own position. My apologetic is explicitly a Christian one because as a serious believer I also understand the Bible addresses the matter.
First of all, it is of paramount importance to define the word “marriage.” For the purposes of this discussion it connotes and is limited to the “union of two human beings.” Throughout all of the history marriage is the word used to describe the smallest building block of society; it is the recognized social marker for responsible and predictable propagation and preservation of any and every society. Societies confer the label of marriage to unions by recognized religious or civil authorities in such a way that the covenant is both public and binding. Propagation and preservation of a society depends entirely upon bearing and rearing children; every human being is the result of one egg from one woman being fertilized by one sperm from one man in one sexual encounter. There is no exception to this fact. The unambiguous and narrow definition of marriage therefore implies that marital unions grant stability and conformity that will also preserve that society.
It is obvious that not every marriage leads to children. As many as one in six (married) couples experience difficulty in getting pregnant. The regrettable corollary is equally true and devastating; namely, that many unmarried couples experience unwanted pregnancies; such pregnancies are almost always a burden to the parents, usually the mother, and also to society. The words “fornication” and “adultery” which have pejorative implication have now given way to such phrases as “living together” or “in a relationship.” I ask myself and I urge you to ask yourself how many adulterous relationships you’ve known about that turned out well; as a follow-up: how many of the wildly popular and entertaining promiscuities of “spring breaks” lead to happy outcomes?
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Whereas it is common to most all of us human beings to need and want close human relationships there are plenty of realities that get in the way; such as, intersex conditions (ambiguous gender states), same-sex attractions, aberrations in development of sexual organs and “eunuch” states as the scripture refers to them. It is regrettable that the believing Christian church has taken this long to respond compassionately and yet in a Biblical way to those in need.
Solutions are necessarily stratified; that is, “family and church rules” are different and more restrictive than “civil rules.” Federal and state laws have already redefined marriage by broadening it. The Christian church response, however, necessarily conforms to scripture. True conversion requires “repentance toward God, faith in the Lord Jesus, and a public proclamation thereof.” Repentance toward God entails a changed attitude and turning from fornication and adultery along with the other deadly sins.
Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is prohibited while same-sex affections and orientation are not sins. We should want to be part of a welcoming and hospitable church that warmly encourages the weak and weary sinners of every stripe, be they foul minded, cohabiting heterosexuals or homosexuals, addicts, prostitutes or pimps, swindlers, and all the rest. To join the “family” however, all those things have to be forsaken and left at the foot of the cross. Private sins must be privately forsaken; public sins must be publicly renounced and forsaken. An important footnote pertains to the interpretation of Romans 1:18-32 in which same-sex practices are explicitly prohibited in verses 26-27. Most of the many folks I know understand that the other verses in the text mean exactly what they say.
One of the most puzzling challenges for today’s vibrant, God-fearing, obedient churches is how to integrate chaste and celibate singles, especially from the LGBT community into the “family.” There are some similarities among those who are in AA programs but there is also a great deal of new territory to be conquered. All of my attempts to get those who identify themselves as gay or lesbian believers to define “sexual sin” have so far gone unanswered. My intuition leads me to believe that churches which perform same-sex unions retain some or even all the elements of fidelity that are part of traditional marriage; sexual issues are deliberately ignored.
Wes Ulrich, M.D., is a resident of Macon.