The Same-Sex marriage Debate
By Paul Chan
San Francisco, California, Mayor Gavin Newsom, a straight and married Irish Catholic had not been in office a full two weeks before he made the decision to order the county clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses on February 12, 2004. A similar, an earlier ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts effectively made Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriages, although the state’s legislature has now moved to adopt a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and establish civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
The same-sex marriage debate is not confined to this country. Christian leaders around the world have to wrestle with an increasing liberal attitude toward this issue even among the clergy. In most debates, conservative Christian leaders have sought to arrive at resolutions that would uphold the teaching of Scripture and send a message of compassion at the same time. Once a decade, the bishops of the world’s 55 million Anglicans gather for the Lambeth Conference to consider major issues facing their denomination. Their resolution on the issue of homosexuality in the 1998 Lambeth Conference, though primarily aimed at the clerical level, can be a helpful guide to us as we seek to reach this generation with the truth and grace of God. Here is an excerpt from the Lambeth Sexuality Resolution as originally appeared in Christianity Today September 7, 1998:
“The resolution states in part that the Anglican Communion:
• In view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.
• While rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all Anglicans to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage, and any trivialization and commercialization of sex.
• Recognizes that there are people who experience a homosexual orientation. Many are members of the church and are seeking pastoral care and moral direction, and God’s transforming power for the ordering of relationships. The church commits to listen to the experience of homosexual people and assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptized believing, and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ.
• Cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions, nor the ordination of those involved in such unions.”
Understandably, the above resolution came about only because of the votes of the bishops from the Third World who were branded “superstitious and backward” by some of the bishops in the United States. Nonetheless, it encapsulates an attitude that is scriptural that most of us, though not necessarily Anglicans, should adopt as we “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
The Bible clearly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2), and it considers the union between same sex partners as sin (Romans 1: 26-27). But how can we explain this to a “post-Christian” generation? Some of the staff and volunteers of CCM’s Gospel Center in San Francisco have chosen to write an open letter to the mayor of San Francisco, taking a common-sense approach. The letter published by Sing Tao Newspaper on March 11, 2004 in Chinese is reproduced here in English.