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Religious Organizations Opposing Ssm Ban Increase

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In today's news, in support of religious liberty..

Rabbis [and Baptist] group joins N.C. same-sex marriage suit

BY MARK PRICE,[email protected]ARLOTTEOBSERVER.COM

June 3, 2014

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Alliance of Baptists have made it official that they are joining as plaintiffs in a Federal District Court lawsuit opposing North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban.

The United Church of Christ filed the lawsuit in April, challenging North Carolina’s state ban on same sex marriage. The suit is said to be the nation’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage bans.

As it stands, North Carolina law makes it illegal for rabbis, priests, ministers and other religious officials to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples on an equal basis with opposite sex couples without fear of criminal prosecution and civil penalty.

United Church of Christ leaders claim North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage is a violation of freedom of religion. Additional plaintiffs include clergy from other faith traditions and same-sex couples in Charlotte, Asheville, Concord and Huntersville.

With more than 2,000 rabbis in the US, Canada and beyond, the CCAR is the largest Jewish rabbinic movement in North America and represents an estimated 1.5 million Jews worldwide.

“This precludes rabbis from participating in one of the fundamental aspects of our Jewish religious traditions with respect to a specific segment of their congregations and communities,” said Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR, in a statement.

“Depriving rabbis of the freedom to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in North Carolina stigmatizes our religious beliefs and relegates many of our congregants and community members to second-class status.”

The Alliance of Baptists sent out a statement Monday reporting its board had voted to join the suit. The alliance began in 1987 and is composed of male and female laity and clergy, people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, theological beliefs and ministry practices.

“By the joining the lawsuit in North Carolina, we are living deeply into our Christian values and offering a clear, Baptist voice for justice and religious liberty,” Alliance President Mike Castle said in a statement.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/03/4952335/rabbis-group-joins-nc-same-sex.html#.U49A1CgbJVK#storylink=cpy

I'm not surprised by Jews supporting marriage equality.... but I'm astonished that Baptists are...

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How is that support of religious liberty?

By allowing ministers who wish to perform same-sex weddings within thrir congregations the ability to do so without reprisal from the government.

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By allowing ministers who wish to perform same-sex weddings within thrir congregations the ability to do so without reprisal from the government.

Has a government in the US actually ever done that over a same sex religious wedding? They may not recognize the legality of it but has there been any punitive action against anyone for a religious ceremony?

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Has a government in the US actually ever done that over a same sex religious wedding? They may not recognize the legality of it but has there been any punitive action against anyone for a religious ceremony?

Yes:

Unitarians: Gay Marriage Nothing New for Us

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/03/16/unitarians-gay-marriage-nothing-new-for-us/

Published March 16, 2004

Associated Press

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KINGSTON, N.Y. –  Unitarian Universalist ministers began performing religious marriage ceremonies for gay couples long before the issue entered the national debate.

So when ministers Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey were charged with criminal offenses Monday for marrying 13 gay couples, critics said the action was unprecedented and accused prosecutors of violating religious freedom.

"The Constitution's promise of religious freedom, and the doctrine of church autonomy should permit clergy to officiate at religious ceremonies without state interference," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (search), the public policy arm of Reform Judaism that supports gay marriage.

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said gay marriage laws make no distinction between public officials and members of the clergy who preside over wedding ceremonies.

Williams said he decided to press charges because the marriages were "drastically different" from religious ceremonies since Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they considered them civil.

"It is not our intention to interfere with anyone's right to express their religious beliefs, including the right of members of the clergy to perform ceremonies where couples are united solely in the eyes of the church or any other faith," Williams said.

Greenleaf and Sangrey were charged with solemnizing a marriage without a license, the same charges leveled against New Paltz Mayor Jason West (search), who last month drew the state into the widening national debate over same-sex unions.

Each charge carries a fine of $25 to $500 or up to a year in jail. The ministers will plead not guilty at their arraignment March 22 and are prepared to go to trial, said their lawyer, Robert Gottlieb.

"There have been clergy throughout the country for years and years who have solemnized marriages between same-sex couples, and only the Ulster County D.A. feels compelled to haul them into a court and brand them a criminal defendant," Gottlieb said.

In a statement, the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association (search) said its ministers have been officiating at religious marriages for same-sex couples for more than 35 years.

"Unitarian Universalists believe that equal marriage rights for all is a matter of justice," the statement said." And in the long run, we have faith that justice will prevail."

Greenleaf, who acknowledged performing the ceremonies in New Paltz knowing the couples did not have licenses, said she signed an affidavit for the couples and considers the ceremonies civil.

The ministers performed the weddings March 6.

On Saturday, Greenleaf and Sangrey were joined by a third minister in performing 25 more ceremonies, which went off without protests or arrests. It could not immediately be learned if more charges would be brought.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign (search), a Washington-based gay rights group, said the charges were unprecedented.

"It's ridiculous that prosecutors would spend their time charging anyone with a crime who is simply trying to unite two people with basic rights and protections," said spokesman Mark Shields.

Williams said his decision to bring charges was influenced by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's opinion that gay marriage is illegal in New York and by the injunction issued by a state supreme court justice against West.

West married 25 gay and lesbian couples Feb. 27 in a highly publicized marathon ceremony, and is now under a court order temporarily halting the weddings.

Since West joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as the only elected officials to marry gay couples, the issue has spread rapidly across the country. Courts, legislatures and elected officials are wrestling with what supporters say is a matter of civil rights and opponents call an attack on the time-honored institution of marriage.

In Oregon, Multnomah County commissioners decided Monday that they will continue to issue gay marriage licenses despite legal objections from the state. Portland remains the only major city in the United States where gay couples can get married.

Also, did you read the opening article....? It addresses your question.

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"Williams said he decided to press charges because the marriages were "drastically different" from religious ceremonies since Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they considered them civil."

""It's ridiculous that prosecutors would spend their time charging anyone with a crime who is simply trying to unite two people with basic rights and protections," said spokesman Mark Shields."

Yes, I did read it and saw the claim. Not sure I buy it though.

What purely religious ceremonies gives any "basic rights and protections"?

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In today's news, in support of religious liberty..

I'm not surprised by Jews supporting marriage equality.... but I'm astonished that Baptists are...

Be cautious of using terms such as "Jews" and "Baptists" so loosely.

 

The Alliance of Baptists is a very small offshoot (130 congregations, 65,000 members) of the massive Southern Baptist Convention.  As you may know, the SBC does not ordain women and does not approve same sex marriages.

 

As for Jews, some large American denominations do ordain women as rabbis and do allow same sex marriage.  However, Orthodox Jews never do, and both practices are not recognized as legal by the State of Israel, which has a Jewish population of over 6 million.  Since more progressive Jewish congregations in the USA are disappearing due to low birthrate, while the Orthodox are growing, the future of female ordination and same sex marriage within Judaism is doomed.

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In today's news, in support of religious liberty..

I'm not surprised by Jews supporting marriage equality.... but I'm astonished that Baptists are...

 

And this means?  That the COJCOLDS should become a product of opinion polls and emulate our neighbors?  Insert something about "great and spacious building".

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Not at all comfortable with any notion that Government should get entangled in religious disputes within a sect.

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In today's news, in support of religious liberty..

I'm not surprised by Jews supporting marriage equality.... but I'm astonished that Baptists are...

 

These are not Orthodox Jews nor are these Baptists in theology.  Reconstructionists and Reformed Judaism have a very liberal approach to scripture having abandoned the conservative approach of Orthodox Judaism.  The Alliance is a group committed to "progressive" ideas such as women pastorates and SSM; they represent about 130 congregations. 

 

The very liberal wing of Christianity and other religions will continue to be very broad in their understanding of scripture.  Their focus seems to value inclusiveness rather than any understanding of sin, right, wrong that results in a division of people.  When there are no parameters what is the value?  For me I always think of a river that has definite banks/parameters that direct the flow of water which is clean and crystal clear versus a swamp that has no banks and runs everywhere without direction and the water turns dank and dark water.

 

To each his own.    

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By allowing ministers who wish to perform same-sex weddings within thrir congregations the ability to do so without reprisal from the government.

To quote the scriptures...we cannot go beyond the word of God.

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To quote the scriptures...we cannot go beyond the word of God.

But others should be able to interpret that word differently, and/or follow different (or no) gods, without reprisal from a secular government.

 

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

- 11th Article of Faith

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But others should be able to interpret that word differently, and/or follow different (or no) gods, without reprisal from a secular government.

 

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

- 11th Article of Faith

Why I used "We", cannot go beyond the word of The Lord.

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And this means?  That the COJCOLDS should become a product of opinion polls and emulate our neighbors?  Insert something about "great and spacious building".

No that would never, ever happen....{cough, cough....1890 Manifesto anyone?.....lifting of priesthood ban in late 1970s....cough, cough}

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No that would never, ever happen....{cough, cough....1890 Manifesto anyone?.....lifting of priesthood ban in late 1970s....cough, cough}

 

So the Church is damned when it does change and damned when it doesn't?…doesn't seem very fair to me!  

 

The bottom line for me: either this church is led by Jesus Christ through living prophets or it isn't.  If God wills a change to happen, then it will happen and I will fully support it - but not because of pressure from popular outside opinion.        

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"Williams said he decided to press charges because the marriages were "drastically different" from religious ceremonies since Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they considered them civil."

""It's ridiculous that prosecutors would spend their time charging anyone with a crime who is simply trying to unite two people with basic rights and protections," said spokesman Mark Shields."

Yes, I did read it and saw the claim. Not sure I buy it though.

What purely religious ceremonies gives any "basic rights and protections"?

 

None. However the right to marry is a religious ceremony that can entail civil rights.

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I know. But it was the civil aspects that were claimed for the ceremony that drew the attention, not the religious aspects so I don't see any interference by the government in the performance of religious duties, only assumed without proper authority according to the state at the time civil duties.

The claim was there was punitive action against a religious ceremony, I don't see that as so even if a religious ceremony was attached to what was censured...the civil claims.

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I know. But it was the civil aspects that were claimed for the ceremony that drew the attention, not the religious aspects so I don't see any interference by the government in the performance of religious duties, only assumed without proper authority according to the state at the time civil duties.

The claim was there was punitive action against a religious ceremony, I don't see that as so even if a religious ceremony was attached to what was censured...the civil claims.

 

It is a mixed bag. We, in the US, get our marriage laws from the Romans by way of the English. But our religious ceremonies from the early Jews by way of the Christians. In the US we claim to be a secular nation, and allow all to believe and practice their religion as long as our practice doesn't infringe on others right to practice their religion. Personally I'd like to get the State out of the marriage business altogether, and make them all legally enforceable contracts, and let religious organizations solemnize any marriage ceremony they like. 

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As I've said before, civil marriages and religious marriages should be separated completely. That way, one does not have to recognize the other and no ones feelings or religious sensibilities are getting hurt.

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As I've said before, civil marriages and religious marriages should be separated completely. That way, one does not have to recognize the other and no ones feelings or religious sensibilities are getting hurt.

I agree.

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As I've said before, civil marriages and religious marriages should be separated completely. That way, one does not have to recognize the other and no ones feelings or religious sensibilities are getting hurt.

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They already are separate. No religion has to recognize a civil marriage. And the government will not recognize a religious marriage if no pAperwork is filed. There, you got your wish, problem solved. Except for the tiny little detail that the church wants to control both types of marriages. Until that stops there will be a problem

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They already are separate. No religion has to recognize a civil marriage. And the government will not recognize a religious marriage if no pAperwork is filed. There, you got your wish, problem solved. Except for the tiny little detail that the church wants to control both types of marriages. Until that stops there will be a problem

I agree this is true in the majority of cases today. Great insight, CB.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, North Carolina's ban isn't this clean-cut. It explicitly prohibit ministers from performing any same-sex wedding, and opens up clergy to the threat of civil prosecution, even though the same-sex marriage isn't civilly recognized in NC.

The 2004 case involving criminal charges against UU ministers I linked to, earlier, also ran afoul because, problematically, the law at that time wasn't as clear and the government officials interpreted their actions as worthy of prosecution (as Calmoriah 's thoughtful response to my posting it illustrated).

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More evidence of the growing support for same-sex relationships among even Christian Faiths, as well:

Christian bookstores are the next gay-marriage battleground

http://m.theweek.com/article/index/264339/christian-bookstores-are-the-next-gay-marriage-battleground

JONATHAN MERRITT | 6:13AM EDT

The battle over gay marriage is being fought in nearly every corner of American society — from public schools to the highest courts, and from television sitcoms to neighborhood barbecues.

Religious Americans — particularly evangelical Christians — have often been at the center of these debates, attempting to hold the line on traditional understandings of marriage. But as support for same-sex marriage grows (a clear majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage), many Christians are starting to shift. Indeed, the majority of white mainline Protestants, white Catholics, and Latino Catholics now back same-sex marriage rights. Strong majorities of white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants continue to oppose gay marriage, but there are both geographical and generational cracks in the foundation.

Many of the largest Christian publishers are coming out with books supporting same-sex relationships. More are on the way. These books have spurred praise from pro-gay Christians and strong resistance from the movement's right flank. All of this indicates that Christian publishing may be the next battleground in America's explosive debates about gay marriage.

Rewind to April when Convergent Books, a division of Crown Publishing Group, released God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines. The book is an attempt by Vines, whose 2012YouTube video claimed that "being gay is not a sin" went viral, to argue that the Bible does not condemn committed, monogamous same-sex relationships. The book's release sent many conservative Christians into panic mode.

Christopher Yuan, an author and Christian professor who claims God saved him from the "gay lifestyle", wrote a withering review of Vines' book in Christianity Today. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned that the book sought "to overthrow two millennia of Christian moral wisdom" and released a full-length e-book to rebut Vines' arguments.

But the final hammer fell in mid-May when the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) forced Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, an evangelical publisher and the sister imprint of the one that published Vines' book, to resign its membership in the organization.

"Unfortunately, while the Multnomah Publishing Group is separate from Convergent, as a legal and business entity, the staff of the Multnomah and Convergent operations are substantially the same,"wrote NRB CEO and president Jerry Johnson. "This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it."

NRB essentially not only forbade members from publishing such books, but said they can't be professionally associated with publishing imprints who do. Call it six degrees of Matthew Vines.

The question now facing NRB and similar organizations is not what they'll do with Convergent, but how they'll respond to other books from Christian publishers arguing similar positions. An increasing number of titles advocate for a rethinking, reframing, or outright reversal of the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality. To wit:

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter argues inGenerous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church that congregations should be open to more progressive views on sexuality. The book was released by Brazos Press, an imprint associated with the evangelical Baker Publishing Group.

James Brownson makes seminary-level arguments in Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships to claim that the Bible allows for committed same-sex relationships. The book is becoming a staple among Christians with progressive views on sexuality and was released by the Christian academic press, Eerdmans.

Justin Lee in Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the God-vs.-Christians Debate and Jay Bakker in Fall to Grace take progressive stances on the issue. Both titles were published by Jericho Books, a sister imprint to an evangelical press that publishes books by conservatives like James Dobson.

Pastor Mark Achtemeier shares why he has shifted in The Bible's 'Yes' to Same Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart. The Presbyterian Westminster John Knox Press released the book. Pastor Ken Wilson released a similar work, A Letter to My Congregation, with a smaller independent press.

My sources within Christian publishing tell me that many similar titles by gay Christians, professors, and pastors who have changed their positions are being acquired and developed now.

One such book is Facing the Music: Discovering Real Life, Real Love, and Real Faith by Jennifer Knapp, which is set for release in October.. Knapp is a Grammy-nominated Christian musician who has come out as a lesbian. Howard Books is a Christian imprint of Simon and Schuster that also publishes the Duck Dynasty brand and many conservative evangelical authors.

Howard is not a member of NRB, but the publisher is a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the ECPA, says no members have attempted to challenge Howard or Waterbrook Multnomah's membership. Publishing books affirming same-sex relationships would not be grounds for removal, according to Kuyper, because it would not violate the ECPA's statement of faith.

Kuyper agreed with my hunch that we're at the beginning of this trend. He told me that he expects to see more titles from Christian publishers released on both sides of the issue in the coming months and years.

"Part of what is so wonderful about publishing is that it is the marketplace of ideas," Kuyper says. "Christianity has gotten to the point where it is brave enough to publish two sides of a hot-button issue from a biblical perspective, and that's really impressive. I can't recall a time when I've ever seen this happen before, and I think it is a positive development."

We can assume that many of Kuyper's conservative Christian colleagues don't share his optimism about this trend in Christian publishing. Of course, what matters is not what the religious talking heads think, but whether the masses of pew-sitting, church-going, vote-casting Christians will be persuaded.

And mark this down: If the battle over same-sex relationships being fought among conservative Christians is won by the pro-gay advocates among them, the larger cultural war is all but over.

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And another report of growing Evangelical Christians supporting gay marriage...

Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage

And the Bible isn’t getting in their way.

By JIM HINCH

July 07, 2014

Amy Tincher is an evangelical Christian who plays bass in the band at her suburban Ohio church, where she and her fellow congregants firmly believe the “words we adhere to” are those in the Bible. But last summer, without telling her husband and two kids exactly what she was doing, she boarded a plane for a conference in Kansas whose purpose many evangelicals would plainly consider heretical.

Tincher was one of 50 people flown from around the country and the world—Canada, China, Nigeria and South Korea—to a four-day Bible boot camp dedicated to discussing, and embracing, gay relationships. The gathering was organized by Matthew Vines, who by then was enjoying modest fame for a 2012 YouTube video in which Vines, looking even younger than his 21 years, delivers an hour-long lecture arguing that the Bible does not, in fact, condemn all same-sex relationships. The video has gone viral, racking up more than 730,000 views to date, landing Vines on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Styles section and helping him raise $100,000 for the conference, where he launched The Reformation Project, a nationwide network of pro-gay evangelicals committed to ending their church’s longstanding hostility toward gay people.

Tincher told me she had once “tried on” an anti-gay attitude to fit in with her conservative community in Liberty Township, outside Cincinnati, but like many evangelicals, she struggled to see how homophobia could accord with an all-loving Christian God. So when her pastor sent her a link to Vines’ video, she recalls, “I remember sitting in my kitchen and just crying. I knew it in my heart, but I had never been told that from the pulpit.”

It’s no secret that attitudes toward same-sex relations have changed in this country: Gay marriage is legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia, and all major public opinion surveys now show a majority of Americans are in favor of it. But Matthew Vines and Amy Tincher are no longer outliers either: Increasingly, even evangelical Christians, long known for doctrinally condemning homosexuality, are embracing gay people, too.

Matthew Vines' video arguing that the Bible does not condemn same-sex marriage has gotten more than 730,000 views on YouTube, and helped him start a network of evangelicals committed to ending anti-gay attitudes in the church.

Over the past decade, evangelical support for gay marriage has more than doubled, according to polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. About a quarter of evangelicals now support same-sex unions, the institute has found, with an equal number occupying what researchers at Baylor University last year called the “messy middle” of those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds but no longer support efforts to outlaw it. The shift is especially visible among young evangelicals under age 35, a near majority of whom now support same-sex marriage. And gay student organizations have recently formed at Christian colleges across the country, including flagship evangelical campuses such as Wheaton College in Illinois and Baylor in Texas.

Even some of the most prominent evangelicals—megachurch pastors, seminary professors and bestselling authors—have publicly announced their support for gay marriage in recent months. Other leaders who remain opposed to gay unions have lowered their profiles on the issue. After endorsing a gay marriage ban passed in California in 2008, Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of one of the country’s biggest megachurches, said in 2009 that he had apologized to all “all my gay friends” and that fighting gay marriage was “very low” on his list of priorities. Just last month, the Presbyterian Church, a Protestant denomination with a significant, though declining, minority of evangelicals, voted to allow ministers to perform same-sex weddings in states where they are legal.

How Christians See Gay Marriage

Support for same-sex marriage remains lowest among evangelical Christians, but they are beginning to catch up: Between 2001 and 2014, evangelicals saw the largest percent increase in support for gay marriage, compared to other religious groupings surveyed by Pew Research.

The change has taken conservative political leaders by surprise, fractured the coalition against gay marriage and begun to dry up funding for some of the traditional-marriage movement’s most prominent organizations. Just a decade ago, conservative Christians powered an electoral surge that outlawed gay unions in 11 states and, in the view of many political analysts, helped to ensure President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection. Barely one in 10 evangelicals supported gay marriage, and church leaders like Warren urged their followers to vote against same-sex unions. Evangelicals “could not stand idly by while the radical gay agenda was forced down their throats,” James Dobson, then the chairman of the conservative Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family, said at the time. At its extreme, evangelical denunciation of gay people turned hateful and violent. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart drew widespread condemnation in 2004 when he told an audience, “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.”

Now, Christian political groups, including Focus on the Family and the National Association of Evangelicals, have virtually stopped campaigning on the issue, shifting their focus to legal efforts to shield religious business owners from having to cater to gay weddings. Republican politicians, who historically have relied on evangelical support, are backing away, too. In Ohio, where in 2004 evangelical activists were among the first in the nation to campaign for a successful ballot measure outlawing gay unions, both Rob Portman, the state’s Republican senator, and Jim Petro, former Republican attorney general, now support overturning the ban.

“We must prepare people for what the future holds, when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality aren’t part of the cultural consensus but are seen to be strange and freakish and even subversive,” Russell Moore, chief political spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in an April blog post. As if in confirmation of Moore’s warning, the following month, a Southern Baptist congregation outside Los Angeles became the first in the 16 million-member denomination to vote to accept gay worshippers even if they are in relationships. “I realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality,” the church’s pastor, Danny Cortez, wrote in an online statement.

Such views will only become more common in the years ahead, says Jeremy Thomas, an Idaho State University sociologist who has studied conservative Christians’ changing attitudes toward homosexuality. “Evangelicals will more or less come to embrace homosexuality in the next 20 to 30 years,” Thomas predicts. “I would put all my money on that statement.”

***

For a branch of Christianity devoted to scriptural interpretation, a debate about gay marriage was bound to contend with what the Bible says on the matter. Sure enough, as the politics of same-sex marriage have changed, a quiet movement to change evangelicals’ very interpretation of the Bible has gained momentum.

Just a few years ago, opposition to homosexuality was considered a cornerstone of conservative Christian thought, and gay relationships presented what many Christian leaders described as an existential challenge to orthodoxy. “What’s at stake here is the very foundation of our society, not only of America but all Western civilization,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, declared following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas sodomy ban. Liberal Christians have argued for years that the Bible’s statements on sexuality, ranging from endorsement of polygamy to praise of celibacy, are complicated and rooted in their historical contexts. But now, pro-gay rights evangelicals want to prove that supporting gay relationships doesn’t contradict the authority of scripture.

That’s the idea behind Matthew Vines’ Reformation Project, whose second conference is expected to draw as many as 900 people to Washington, D.C., this fall. Vines, now 24, came up with the idea for the project after taking a leave of absence from his studies Harvard University to study the Bible and Christian history, all in an effort to convince fellow evangelicals, including his own parents in Wichita, that they should embrace gay people like him. He argues that the handful of biblical passages that evangelicals often cite as condemning same-sex relationships—the Sodom and Gomorrah story, for instance, or St. Paul’s denunciation of pagan Roman men “consumed with passion for one another”—need not be interpreted as anti-gay.

In April, when Vines published a book about these beliefs, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, it sparked a torrent of online conversation and prompted the National Religious Broadcasters, an association of Christian media groups, to kick out the book’s Christian publisher for “unbiblical material.” But God and the Gay Christian now sits near the top of several religion bestseller lists on Amazon, and, even more strikingly, prominent evangelical pastors are echoing Vines’ interpretation.

The Bible boot camp organized by Matthew Vines in Kansas last summer. | Rick Wood

“While influenced by God, [the Bible] is not dictated by God,” Adam Hamilton, the pastor of an influential Methodist megachurch near Kansas City, Missouri, said in a recent interview. “It is possible to be a faithful Christian who loves God and loves the scriptures and at the same time to believe that the handful of verses on same-sex intimacy are like the hundreds of passages accepting and regulating slavery or other practices we today believe do not express the heart and character of God.” Evangelical scholars like James Brownson, professor of New Testament studies at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan and author of the book Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, similarly believe that people in same-sex relationships can still be redeemed by God. “Can gay and lesbian people experience the work of the Spirit and transformation of heart such that their sexual desire can be drawn into the life of God and reflect God’s love?” he said to me. “My answer is yes.”

Of course, many evangelicals still uphold traditional church teachings on homosexuality and rush to defend them. Days before Vines’ book was published, the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based evangelical nonprofit organization, issued a press release headlined, “God and the Gay Christian Is Anything but Biblically Accurate: American Family Association Calls Out Book’s False Message and Misleading Marketing.” “What we are seeing is the impact of this relentless brainwashing by the mainstream media, and it affects people that aren’t thinking clearly or aren’t grounded in a biblical worldview,” AFA’s issues analysis director, Bryan Fischer, told me. “There are some evangelical leaders who are sounding a very defeatist tone—the battle is over, and we lost and we have to get used to it. That kind of defeatism just has no place in the evangelical community.”

And yet, even in the statements of evangelical leaders ardently opposed to same-sex marriage, there is a new tone of uncertainty. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted a lengthy online critique of Vines’ book the day it was published. “Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision,” Mohler writes. While calling Vines’ argument “neither true nor faithful to Scripture,” he acknowledges that it is “nonetheless, a prototype of the kind of argument we can now expect."

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/07/evangelicals-gay-marriage-108608.html#ixzz36zZv0LTO

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