Update: On June 26, 2015, The Supreme Court of the United states ruled 5 to 4 that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love. Legally, this does make it possible for you to be married in any state in the union, assuming that the state has not set up stumbling blocks in your way.
North Carolina: The NC Legislature ruled (over the governor’s veto) that any (state) government official to refuse to assist (issue the license, preside at the marriage, etc.) if they disagree, based on their religious beliefs. This could also effect interracial marriages in the state, marriage of the elderly (they are beyond their years of procreation), etc. Any reason based on their religion. In this case, the state employee must recuse themselves from the ceremony, and the responsibility is passed to another state employee (if any) in the office who agrees to do the legal part of getting married. Of course the challenge is if a couple wants to get married in a certain county (like – where they life) but they cannot, because there are no state employees available to them to process their marriage.
Texas: The attorney general made it known that state employees may refuse service if the marriage is against their religious beliefs. He said that the clerks can expect to be sued and that the State has “many lawyers” on hand to come to their defense.
Let’s look at the denominations and various religions in the United States, since that is what this blog is all about.
First, consider the First Amendment of our Constitution already makes it clear that any church or minister may decline to preside over or bless such a marital union. Pastors will continue to have the legal right to believe that, and act on it in their churches. Everyone knows that. No one has ever said otherwise.
The First Amendment already guarantees that right.
So technically speaking for all those Christians out there (and I use that word quite loosely) nothing at all has changed about how they go about their own practices. Nobody is forcing anybody to do anything they don’t want to.
This is a list (first compiled mid 2011) of religious organizations who are accepting of LGBTQ members, including any combination of church membership, ordination to ministry, and blessing same-gender marriages.
For the sake of brevity in typing, I use the term Gay here to represent LGBTQ(etc) people, with no gender alliance given to the word. Please note that most religious denominations have only gotten into the discussions of “Gay Men” and “Lesbians” and rubrics tend to not cover “Bisexual Persons,” “Transgendered Persons,” “Queer,” “Questioning,” etc. Please keep that in mind in reading, that almost without exception, the regulations of the various religious organizations pertain to “homosexual men and women,” here after referred to as “Gay.”
To keep the list (relatively) short and (mostly) upbeat, I have listed organizations who DO have pro-gay policies, and have ommitted those who do not. This particular list covers Christian denominations. Non-Christian religions we will cover in another list.
The Church of England is wildly split over the topic of gay ordination and same-gender couple blessings, even as such marriages are legal in some parts of the UK. Officially, the stand of the CofE is that “homosexuality is incompatible with scripture,” yet there are currently gay (and gay married couples) in the Anglican priesthood in England. The next round of battle over homosexuality with The Anglican Communion is forthcoming, in 2012.
The good news here is that the Church of England finally began ordaining women as Bishops in December, 2014.
- The Church of England: The news here is that by 2013, were allowing people in same-sex unions to be ordained as bishop, so long as they were celibate. Technically, The CofE has ordained out bishops as far back as 1999. (this note added June, 2015)
- The Anglican Church of Canada follows state law on the issue of gay marriage, and allows gay ordination. They had much less internal stress over the Gay Marriage discussion than many other denominations.
- The Episcopal Church in the United States of America decided (2009) to allow blessing of gay marriage, and was instrumental in bringing attention to the battle over ordination of (out) gay clergy with the 2003 ordination of the church’s first gay bishop.
- Note that in the “Worldwide Anglican Communion” there are no provinces in Africa which allow either ordination or marriage of gay people, and The Anglican Church of Kenya actively does not allow (known) homosexuals to be member of the church. All these provinces have cut ties with the US Episcopal Church, even as ECUSA continues to send aid to African provinces as part of the Millennium Development Goals program to assist third world countries.
The understanding in the Eastern Orthodox church is that all sexual activity is part of “the fallen world,” even heterosexual congress, so – oddly – they see little difference in gay sexual relations and straight sexual relations, and instead say that purity is found in celibacy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormon Church)
Their belief is that homosexual feelings are a trait that can be overcome and in themselves are not immoral. They do not believe the same about homosexual activity. Logically speaking, then, is it ok to be a gay celibate, as long as you are not sexually active?
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ordains celibate gay clergy.
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada leaves this as a local option to ordain, and to bless a gay marriage in Canada where such a marriage is legal.
- The Lutheran Church of Germany ordains gay clergy, and the church is split on the issue of gay marriage, with more church support (and acceptance) coming from the urban synods than from rural areas. The church also states that any type of persecution is unacceptable.
- The Church of Sweden blesses gay marriage and ordains gay clergy. Currently (as of 2009) The Bishop of Stockholm is a Lesbian.
- The Lutheran Church of Finland allows but doesn’t require priests to bless gay marriages.
The Mennonite Church
The church is currently split among the conferences, with no national-level policy yet. Some congregations are welcoming.
United Methodist Church
The Methodists are currently in a split over semantics in the Methodist Book of Discipline. One section states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” yet in a section of the book previous to this, the Book of Discipline states that homosexuals – the same as heterosexuals – are “individuals with sacred worth.” This has caused heated discussions in the church as far as how to proceed with these two contradictory statements, particularly around the ordination of gay ministers.
The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC)
Acceptance and blessing of gay people, including marriage and ordination, is central to the theology of this religion.
The Moravian Church
In 1974 the Moravians set policy that gay men and women are full members of the Christian Community. They are split on ordination and marriage blessing, and there are no current discussions on adding to the policy.
Old Catholic Church
In Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands. Most certainly NOT to be confused with the Roman Catholic Church. Homosexuality is moral, and they allow ordination and marriage blessings of gay people.
Although the larger populated mainstream Pentecostal church views homosexuality as a grave sin, a group of welcoming and affirming Pentecostal denominations has given rise over the past few decades. This group of churches is gay-affirming based on research in the scriptures, going back to the original languages, and finding no evidence of condemnation of homosexuality.
- Affirming Pentecostal Church
- Covenant Network
- Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals (GAAAP)
- The Fellowship of Reconciling Pentecostals International (RPI)
Approved the ordination of gay clergy in 2010. LGBT people are welcomed into the church on an individual congregational basis. It really just depends on how affirming a particular congregation is as to how welcome you’d be. It might be worth checking around first, if visiting a new congregation.
- More Light Presbyterians is a growing group of churches (currently over 100 ) of welcoming and affirming congregations. The group was founded in 1980.
The Roman Catholic Church:
Even though full membership and ordination is still frowned upon by the general church, the election of the current Pope Francis has been shaking the rafters of the old church by speaking of how LGBT people are kind of the same as everybody else, as far as our relationship to God is concerned. With the current Pope, the days of throwing out The Society of the Rainbow Sash from the communion rail seem to have either left us, or have at least slowed down. The gay-affirming organization for Roman Catholics is Dignity/USA. It’s worth noting that there are spin-off denominations following the Catholic practice that are gay-affirming groups. Some include:
- Ecumenical Catholic Church
- Ecumenical Catholic Communion
- Eucharistic Catholic Church
- Evangelical Catholic Church
- The Old Catholic Church
(yes indeed.) The best first place to start researching is the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (awab) This organization has been around since the early 1990s and is a cross-denominational listing of churches in the Baptist faith that are also gay-affirming. They also list affiliated ministries including Seminaries.
It’s worth noting that as the 6/6/15 Supreme Court decision was pending, the head of the Southern Baptists stated that his denomination was standing ground against gay people. Again, here, I would check around before visiting a new congregation.