Colo. Springs church split reveals divisiveness of “gay” marriage issue

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.


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  • OldDaveNJ says:

    There are so many false and misleading statements in this piece, I hardly know where to begin.

    (1) Regarding the tagline following the title, there is no such thing as a “gay lifestyle.” The gay people I know all live lifestyles that are pretty much the same as the straight people I know … they get up and do fine work in respectable jobs, pay their taxes, donate time to good causes in the community, and mostly spend quiet evenings at home. The ones with kids are actively involved in school activities. The majority are Christians who actively participate in the lives of their congregations.

    (2) Also regarding the tagline … whether support of same-gender relationships is contrary to biblical values or not is precisely what is being debated in these churches; it is NOT a given.

    (3) The statement that this issue has come up because churches are trying to “reconcile their teaching with state laws legalizing same-sex marriages” is completely false … a pure fabrication. It has come up because more and more people are coming to realize that the Bible isn’t as clear on the issue as they once thought, and that questionable interpretations like those that equate the rapists of Sodom with loving, committed same-gender couples are false, damaging, and contrary to Christ’s call to love.

    (4) As states like NJ and Vermont have discovered, civil unions do not provide same-gender couples with all the rights and protections of marriage. For example, no matter how a state civil union law is worded, most employers in Colorado (or any state with civil unions) that provide health benefits to spouses of straight married employees are perfectly free to deny those same benefits to partners of civil-unionized employees. There is nothing that can be done to fix that short of recognizing full marriage equality and waiting for DOMA to fall. And there are the sociological issues that usually lead to “separate-but-equal” falling short. Five years after enacting civil unions in NJ, and there are still problems with same-gender couples being turned away from businesses, in violation of the law, because of confusion over the differences between civil unions and marriage.

    (5) Same-gender couples don’t want to “own” the word “marriage.” They want to share it with the rest of us, at least as far as the civil definition of marriage goes. It is mostly traditionalist Christians that want to “own” the word.

    (6) The notion that churches might lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform same-gender weddings is also completely false … an alarmist fabrication. In spite of all the civil-rights legislation that has developed over the past fifty years, I’m not aware of churches being penalized for refusing to perform weddings for interracial couples or mixed-faith couples. And I’m not aware of churches being penalized for refusing to ordain women. Religious-freedom rights generally trump civil rights when it comes to how churches conduct their own, internal affairs, and there is no historical evidence I’m aware of to suggest it will be any different in this case.

  • Wyoming Reader says:

    Is this article a joke? The headline certainly is.

    Obviously, many in “Christian circles” see same-sex couples’ right to marry as consistent with their Biblical values.

    Colorado Springs and its far right religious groups are hardly indicative of the nation as a whole. While some churches are leaving their denominations over this issue, this is a feature of the Protestant landscape as a whole. In more hierarchical denominations, such as Catholicism, you have a clergy whose values and teachings are broadly ignored by the “faithful.” Most catholics approve of gay marriage and the vast majority of opposite sex Catholic couples use contraception in good conscience.

    If you’re going to bother to cover religion, you could at least bother to do a little homework.

  • Roland Day says:

    Lacy correctly reports that congregations are leaving both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the the Episcopal Church, but that does not tell the whole story. The two denominations are losing about 3 percent of their membership every year – year after year. They both have become much smaller than they were. Each now has less than 2,000,000 members and the loss is ongoing.

    The Christians in the pews simply aren’t buying the ordination of gay clergy and they are voting with their feet – by going elsewhere.

  • susan says:

    This is a very biased article. First, why is gay is quotations in this article?

    Second, many Christians believe that accepting gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian relationship IS a Biblical value – it is not an either/or proposition.

  • I wouldn’t want to be a member of a church that didn’t include EVERYONE…! Are bigots welcome in that church????

  • Marco Luxe says:

    Your last sentence is completely without legal merit. It is irresponsible journalism to make such false statements.

    Also misleading is the word “granted” your phrase “a church may still be granted the right to refuse to marry…” as this implies future uncertainty.

    Church doctrines and practices are protected from government interference from the beginning of the country by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The right of churches to be independent is at the core of our tradition. There is no further “granting” of rights needed for them to limit who participates in religious rites. There are no past or pending court cases that give rise to such legal questions.

    Shame on you.

    [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.]

  • OldDaveNJ says:

    @Roland Day — Linking the decline in membership in these denominations with their positions on same-gender relationships is disingenuous. Denominations like the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention have also been reporting declining memberships for years, and they are vociferously opposed to same-gender relationships.

    Regardless, denominations like the PCUSA aren’t revising their positions regarding same-gender relationships because they are popular, but because they believe they are right, given their understanding of the scriptural witness.

  • RG Morley says:

    While being a church is granted by the constitution of the US,.. the Tax exempt status is not and is a lever that the US often uses to coerce churches to “Fall in Line” with popular thought. This is also true if a religious organization endorses one candidate over another one from the Pulpit, they can lose their non-profit status.

    There have been multiple denominations that have fallen prey to what seems to be popular thought in the culture as it relates to the Gay lifestyle, it comes down to whether or not that lifestyle can be endorsed biblically, with one camp claiming that the Bible should not be literal and that it was intended to change with the times and the other camp holding to God being the same yesterday, today and tomorow and that the word of God not conforming to the world and it’s views.

    The Gay Lifestyle agenda is still a minority thought, but their lobbies are well organized and well spoken, making it appear to be a larger number than it actually is. It is obvious by the splits in many churches that the number of people who find this lifestyle to be acceptable in the eyes of God is not as great as the Gay community would like.

    It is human nature to “want what we want” regardless of what the bible tells us,.. in fact regardless of what anyone tells us,.. but God does not conform to the created,.. the created are to conform to His commands. Nowhere biblically does God refer to the Gay lifestyle as acceptable,. Biblically it is called an abomonation, and while that is not politically correct,.. the Bible is not a politically Correct document and Jesus was not a politically correct individual, even in his time. The ones who choose to claim that the Gay lifestyle was not addressed biblically,.. are simply choosing to refuse to ackowledge the passages that relate.

  • OldDaveNJ says:

    @RG Morley — you are setting up a false dichotomy when you say the difference between those churches that support same-gender marriage and those that oppose comes down to the latter “holding to God being the same yesterday, today and tomorow and that the word of God not conforming to the world and it’s views.” In fact, even churches that support same-gender marriage believe that; you are totally misrepresenting their views … maybe because you don’t understand them. The issue isn’t a matter of God changing … it’s a matter of whether human understanding of Scripture is ever infallible … whether past interpretations might have been wrong. In the past, anti-Semitism was widely practiced by Christianity, with extensive Biblical justifications. There is no guarantee that past understandings of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality is any more correct than past understandings of what the Bible says about relations with the Jewish people.

    Again, there is no such thing as a “gay lifestyle.” You are operating under some sort of delusion on that point.

    The splits you refer to have been relatively minor, and offer no evidence supporting your claim about the number of Christians supporting same-gender marriage.

    Biblically, the passages you think characterize homosexuality as “an abomination” probably have nothing to do at all with the kinds of loving, committed same-gender relationships we’re talking about here. Instead, they likely have to do with things like rape (the Sodom story), male shrine prostitution (Leviticus, Deut., 1/2 Kings), and things like pederasty and temple prostitution (Paul’s letters). You are making an assumption that the Bible speaks against loving, monogamous same-gender relationships when, in fact, that is the very question that is being debated in these churches. You simply assuming one side is correct without provide supporting arguments is tantamount to saying you’re right because you say so … and it does nothing to move the discussion forward. And it misrepresents in a rather malicious way just what supporters of same-gender marriage actually believe.

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