Pastors, have you been asked to do a gay wedding?

There have been about 120,000 same-sex marriages since they were legalized nation-wide last year.  The total number of marriages in 2014 was 2.1 million.  So, assuming similar stats for the previous year, the percentage of gay weddings would be just over 5%.

How many pastors have been asked to perform gay weddings?  According to a new study, 11%.  Presbyterians were asked most often (26%), followed by Lutherans (19%), but I’m pretty sure these would be the liberal denominations in those traditions–the PCUSA, not the PCA; the ELCA, not the LCMS.  Only 1% of Baptist pastors were asked, so gay weddings seem to be largely taking place among mainline liberal protestants.

Of course, same-sex couples are unlikely to ask pastors from churches that don’t recognize gay marriages, which is logical, and they don’t seem to want to make trouble in their weddings, usually asking pastors whom they know.

Read more about the findings after the jump.

Have any of you pastors been asked to do a gay wedding?

[Read more…]

Are Christians the powerful or the marginalized?

In the course of a post on why so many evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump, S. D. Kelly tosses off an observation that explains much about the current controversies between Christians and secularists.

Secularists tend to see Christians as “the powerful”; that is, in postmodern parlance, those who are in a position of power and privilege who oppress “the marginalized,” those who lack power and privilege.

But Christians tend to see themselves as “the marginalized,” oppressed by the cultural elite who exclude them and exercise their power against them.

Thus, when a Christian baker refuses to participate in a gay wedding, the secularists see the Christian heteronormative establishment discriminating against marginalized and oppressed gay people.

While Christians see secularists–who control the culture, the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, the government, and the law–imposing their sexual ideology on those with traditional Christian values and punishing them for their minority religious beliefs.

This explains much of the rhetoric, argumentation, and high feelings on both sides.  Are these just two irreconcilable perceptions?  Or can we make an objective case for one side or the other?  Does realizing these different perceptions suggest other ways of addressing these controversies? [Read more…]

Why won’t bishops discipline Joe Biden? 

Vice President Joe Biden performed a gay wedding earlier this month, getting special certification from the District of Columbia to allow him to do so.  He also supports the right to an abortion.  Both put him squarely against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and yet he remains an active member in good standing.

Westminster Seminary theologian Carl Trueman asks, why doesn’t the appropriate bishop discipline him?  Is there anything a Catholic politician could do that would get him in trouble with the church?

Trueman is Reformed, not Catholic, so he sees church discipline as one of the marks of the church.  Since, as we have seen, Catholics can go to Hell, perhaps church discipline is not so important in that tradition, though one would think such a possibility would be a matter for pastoral care.  How would other church bodies, such as Lutherans, come down on this? [Read more…]

A comedy-thriller about the Reformation

You have GOT to read The Relic Master, a novel by Christopher Buckley (son of conservative icon William F. Buckley).  It’s about a dealer in sacred relics (bones of the saints, artifacts from Bible stories, etc.) that, when venerated, were thought to provide time-off from purgatory.  The story takes place in the time of Martin Luther.  The cast of characters is a who’s-who of Reformation history.  Buckley, a noted satirist, has written a novel that is funny, exciting, and true to history.  His scathing portrait of the religious corruption and decadence of the time leaves no doubt that Luther, in his effort to reform the Church and recover authentic Christianity, is the good guy.

Dismas is the relic supplier for both Frederick the Wise of Saxony and Archbishop Albert of Mainz.  Some theses posted on a church door by a friar who teaches in Frederic’s university start to make waves, with Frederic protecting him and Albert trying to burn him at the stake.  Dismas, caught in the middle with his livelihood threatened, sees Luther’s point, but gets caught up in a relic forgery scam, aided by his side-kick, the great artist Albrecht Dürer.  The plot thickens, and their plot thickens, leading to a mad-cap scheme to steal the Shroud of Turin. [Read more…]

Morality as politics

The Pew Research Center has conducted a study finding that 64% of church goers heard political issues being preached from the pulpit.  Those “political issues” included abortion, homosexuality, religious liberty, the environment, and economic inequality.

Now those are mostly moral–not political–issues.  Churches have always taught about sexual morality and respect for human life.  They have also addressed issues of social morality.  That is not being political.  The Pew study found that only 14% heard political candidates being promoted or criticized.

What’s interesting here is that the researchers consider moral beliefs to be nothing more than political positions.  To be sure, government dictates about morality gives them a political dimension they normally would not have.  This is especially true when the government requirements run counter to the church’s traditional moral teachings.  Of course the church must push back against that.

But the problem isn’t churches meddling into politics.  It is the government meddling into morality.

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ELCA makes new accord with Catholics

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the theologically liberal Lutheran denomination) has arrived at a new accord with the Roman Catholic Church, focusing on church, ministry, and eucharist. Read the document here.

After giving all of the agreements that were found, the document gives the issues of disagreement that remain:  the papacy and women’s ordination (which ELCA practices).

That would sound like Missouri Synod Lutherans, who agree that only men may be ordained into the holy ministry, are even closer to Rome than the ELCA, disagreeing only on the authority of the pope!

To be sure, there would be quite a bit of agreement even with the LCMS on church, ministry, and eucharist–though also quite a lot of disagreements that have been papered over.  (Find them.)

If the ELCA wants to heal the breach with Rome, I would encourage them now to discuss abortion, gay marriage, and sexual morality.  The differences would be much greater, though perhaps in the name of ecumenism the ELCA would change its permissive teachings. [Read more…]