From churches in California and Alabama to the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, gay marriage continues to prompt concern in the larger evangelical community.
City Church in San Francisco has drawn criticism from evangelicals for lifting its requirement that members with same-sex attraction not engage in homosexual behavior. The church has about 1,000 attendees at two locations and is part of the Reformed Church in America. Meanwhile, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., has been disfellowshipped from its local Baptist association after its pastor and an unpaid minister to the community expressed their support for same-sex marriage and the volunteer minister performed at least one same-sex wedding.
Both developments occurred amid a growing push for gay marriage among Christian churches and denominations, with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approving an amendment to its constitution the same week that affirmed same-sex marriage. The amendment changed the PCUSA’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”
The PCUSA General Assembly approved the amendment in June but approval by a majority of regional presbyteries was required for the change to take effect. The Presbytery of the Palisades in New Jersey cast the decisive vote of approval March 17.
A spokesman for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, an organization that that seeks to foster renewal in mainline denominations, told Baptist Press the PCUSA’s action will exacerbate tensions among Presbyterians.
“The decision of the PCUSA to redefine marriage as between any two persons will not ease conflict or put this matter to rest for the denomination,” IRD communications director Jeff Walton said in written comments. “Departures from the PCUSA — well underway for over two years — will only increase. The fight over same-sex marriage is symptomatic of deeper issues dividing Presbyterians, chiefly centered upon the authority of Holy Scripture.”
In San Francisco, City Church announced that nine months of discussion among the congregation’s elders preceded the change in policy regarding homosexual behavior.
Jeff Iorg, president of the Bay Area’s Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said City Church has “invented a new hermeneutic to support their experience-driven conclusions that several thousand years of biblical interpretation has been wrong.”
“The decision by City Church is not really about sexuality; it’s about biblical authority,” Iorg wrote in a BP column. “The crux of the matter is this: Does the Bible define morality or does our experience define morality? The answer to that question has far more significant implications than affirming any form of sexual behavior. The Gospel itself is at stake. If the Bible is wrong on defining sinful behavior, then why should we assume it’s correct when it also prescribes the solution?”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press