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Clergy and Same-Sex Marriage

UNIDENTIFIED MINISTER (performing marriage ceremony): Today we celebrate the first legal marriage of two women at All Saints.

KIM LAWTON: Susan Craig and Bear Ride have been partners for 12 years. They’re both ordained Presbyterian ministers, and when California legalized same-sex marriage they knew they wanted a church wedding.

Reverend SUSAN CRAIG: It means everything to be here under the watchful eyes of God and the saints above, the community all around us, in this very special community for us.

LAWTON: They got married last week not in a Presbyterian church, but at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

Reverend BEAR RIDE: At this point it would be a chargeable offense for a Presbyterian minister to officiate at our wedding, a legal wedding, because in the church — the church’s constitution — a marriage is a civil contract. It says between a man and a woman and a covenant between two people who love each other. That’s archaic language now in California.

Same sex marriage ceremony

Same sex marriage ceremony

LAWTON: As California moves full steam ahead with gay marriage, clergy are being pressured to perform same-sex weddings and to perform them inside their houses of worship. This is generating new debates because many religious traditions explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman. Some clergy, including Roman Catholics and evangelicals, have refused to be part of gay marriages. But others, especially mainline Protestants, are more conflicted.

Mary Holder Naegeli is a Presbyterian minister in San Francisco who agrees with her denomination’s opposition to gay marriage.

Reverend MARY HOLDER NAEGELI: Why would I, a representative of God, help people make permanent with a vow — I take marriage vows very seriously — but with a vow to make permanent then, seal something that God wouldn’t agree with? God wouldn’t bless that. That’s my basic conscience problem with the whole issue.

LAWTON: But she says it is a challenge to balance her beliefs with her state’s new marriage policy.

Rev. HOLDER NAEGELI: Sociologically, there is going to be more and more pressure to not only accept, or tolerate, let’s say, something that is not of God’s design, but to promote it and to make it normative in the life of Californians, which, you know, when you hold a biblical position like I do, makes life really uncomfortable.

Mary Holder Naegeli

Mary Holder Naegeli

LAWTON: At the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly this week, held coincidentally in California, there was vigorous debate about whether the denomination should change its rules about marriage. Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, the church’s new moderator, acknowledged there are strong divisions.

Reverend BRUCE REYES-CHOW (Moderator, Presbyterian Church USA, speaking at General Assembly meeting): Can we agree to disagree on the issue of homosexuality? I think that is a question that we as a body have to really struggle with because it’s difficult to live out of both sides of that thought.

LAWTON: For many, it comes down to interpreting whether the Bible indeed says that marriage should only be for a man and a woman.

Bear Ride

Bear Ride

Rev. HOLDER NAEGELI: We have several instances from beginning to end of Scripture that make that point. There isn’t any wiggle room. There’s no softening of that position anywhere.

LAWTON: Reverend Ride disagrees.

Rev. RIDE: If you look through the Bible, there are all sorts of different types of marriage. You know, it’s very common to have multiple wives. Or concubines are fine. I think we’re picking and choosing the biblical concept of marriage.

LAWTON: While clergy continue to debate whether or not to perform gay weddings, California voters will soon be weighing in as well. A measure to ban gay marriage is set to be on the ballot in November.

I’m Kim Lawton in Pasadena.

ABERNETHY: In anticipation of that vote, many evangelicals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, are organizing efforts to support the gay marriage ban.

  • Sam

    I disagree very strongly with these concepts:
    1) That same-sex marriage should be allowed.
    2) That priests of the Almighty should be allowed to pursue same-sex relationships.
    3) That someone should be pressured to perform such a ceremony when it clearly violates his conscience.
    One can call it archaic, but look at all the fallen empires. They succumbed to sexual immorality and it destroyed each one from the inside. Will we allow it to happen here in the US?

  • Lucy Boswell

    In her statement that the bible contains all kinds of marriages, including multiple wives and concubines Rev Ride seems to be arguing that any group, say, a man or woman and his or her partners could constitute a marriage. If we think this issue is complicated now, just wait until we
    undo laws against bigamy! The bible is crystal clear that marriage is
    a covenant between one man and one woman. I agree with Mary Naegeli
    that there is no wiggle room for different interpretations.

  • Joseph

    I was Baptized as a child United Methodist and raised in the United Presbytierian Church ( PCUSA). I am a 50 year old dude and pretty open minded and contemporary in many ways.

    I will say that the PCUSA denomination is all over the place , as is some other Presbyterian denominations. We have bought into the liberal or as well as the evenagelical non denominational sytsem that is sweeping churches today. My gosh , you can walk into a Presbyterian Church such as Menlo Presbyterian, Menlo Park, Ca or Community Presbyterian in Danville, Ca and not even know you are in a Presbyterian Church. The ministers wear no robes or vestments, the Lords Prayer, doxology. the gloria patri are not even sung anymore all replaced by Worship Praise Music. Choirs do not process..its too casual and bible thumping for me. This is NOT reformed and I really do not like it. In fact at Menlo Presbyterian their main pastor was not even a Presbyterian but came from Willow Church in Chicago, Ill. There is somethng wrong in this denomination. Then you have people on the other end that deny the deity, they are eveolutionist,liberal, gays and lesbians. I mean its all out of wack.

    Although I believe in opening doors to gays and lesbians..I do not think we need to advocate this lifestyle in our face. The scripture is clear about many things. People that struggle with adultry and alcohol should we have ministers that are involved in these lifestyles advocate it from the pulpit? Should they as well form churches that agree and allow this?

    The Bible is clear..we may not be..but scripture is. I think its embarrasing and not a good witness to the world at all. Call it what you will, scripture is scripture…no dodging around it. Its like…how do you get around scripture that says to
    ” be ye separate saith the Lord” …so do you just say that scripture was for back then or do we acknowledge that perhaps the Lord God wanted us separate from the World. That is the same way it is of scriptures that mention and talk about homosexuality, what do we do push it under the carpet and say it was for then not now! We are really clueless!