by Matt Lacy –
The recent decision by Colorado Springs Church that predates statehood to pull out of its denomination reveals how much of a hot button issue the debate over same-sex marriage is becoming in Christian circles.
Last Sunday almost 90% of the 4,000 member First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs voted to proceed with efforts to sever ties with its parent denomination Presbyterian Church (USA.)
Pastor Jim Singleton said the primary reason for holding the initial vote was disagreements with the direction the denomination was taking in the area of homosexuality. The denomination made a decision last year allowing for the ordination of “gay” and lesbian clergy that were in committed relationships. This summer church leaders are expected to vote on whether to allow their ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings.
Following the decision dozens of congregations have left the denomination including churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin and California.
The church which was founded in 1872 and is one of the largest in the Presbyterian denomination is expected to take a formal vote to sever ties in the near future. Once the split is complete, the church could possibly seek to join the conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which was launched by conservative Presbyterians in January as an protest against the Presbyterian Church USA’s vote on “gay” clergy.
The issue has come to the forefront of many denominations as they attempt to reconcile their teaching with state laws legalizing same-sex marriages. Some have said the church needs to adopt its doctrine to keep up with the time, while fundamentalist elements maintain that God’s word and standards do not change and the church should not base its teaching on whatever is the popular trend.
The issue has also faced the Episcopal Church in America which has increasingly moved away from traditional biblical teaching on homosexuality and now ordains women and homosexual priests. In 2003, the church ordained openly “gay” Gene Robinson as a bishop in the church.
Like the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church has had several congregations pull out. In 2007, Grace Church and St, Stephen’s Parish in Colorado Springs announced they were leaving the denomination over its decision to consecrate “gay” bishops and allowing parishes to perform rites for same-sex couples.
In Colorado, the issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon as the state is considering a civil union bill which would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples. If the bill were to pass it is likely the issue would not stop there as “gay” rights supporters have continually insisted that having full legal rights is not enough, they want to be able to define what the word marriage means and to force society to accept their relationships as normal.
The Greeley Tribune has gone on record stating that while they support the civil union bill being debated in the legislature, they ultimately support same-sex couples to be able to own the word “marriage” to define their relationships.
If the bill were to pass there will be pressure to churches to conform to the new legal norm, regardless of any religious exemptions in the legislation. For instance, while a church may still be granted the right to refuse to “marry” same-sex couples, they could eventually face the possibility of losing their tax-exempt status for discrimination.