List of Christian denominational positions on homosexuality
This is a list of Christian denominational positions on homosexuality. The issue of homosexuality and Christianity is a subject of on-going theological debate within and between Christian denominations and this list seeks to summarise the various official positions. Within denominations, many members may hold somewhat differing views on and even differing definitions of homosexuality.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is opposed to same-sex sexual practices and relationships on the grounds that "sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman." It believes the Bible consistently affirms the pattern of heterosexual monogamy, and all sexual relations outside the scope of spousal intimacy are contrary to God's original plan.
Anglicanism (Including Episcopal)Edit
The Anglican Communion has been divided over the issue of homosexuality in several ways. The Church of England, the mother church of the Communion, currently maintains (according to the statement Issues in Human Sexuality) that same-sex partnerships are acceptable for laypersons, and gay clergy may enter in a civil partnership as long as they are expected to give assurances of celibacy. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 called homosexuality "incompatible with Scripture" but this remains a purely advisory guideline as there are no communion-wide legislative bodies in the Anglican Church. On the other hand, in 2003 the Episcopal Church, which is the American body (province) of the Anglican Communion, approved Gene Robinson to the bishopric of the diocese of New Hampshire. Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly gay (non-celibate) clergy to be ordained to the episcopate. Mary Glasspool became first open lesbian suffragan bishop to be consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion in the Diocese of Los Angeles of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. In 2016, Nicholas Chamberlain, the Bishop of Grantham, became the first bishop in the Church of England to come out as gay and in a same-sex relationship.
"The Anglican Church of Australia does not have a formal, official policy on the issue of homosexuality." The Anglican Church of New Zealand has experienced division and some bishops decided not to allow non-celibate homosexuals to become clergy. However, the Dunedin Diocese of the Anglican Church of New Zealand ordained an openly partnered gay man as deacon and, subsequently, as priest in 2005. The Dioceses of Auckland and Dunedin allow blessings for same-sex relationships. In 2014, the Anglican Church in New Zealand voted for "a resolution that will create a pathway towards the blessing of same-gender relationships, while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage."
In response to several controversies in the Episcopal Church, among which was its changed policies relating to sexual morality, a number of alternative Anglican churches were founded during the 1960s and 1970s. They are customarily referred to as the churches of the Continuing Anglican movement.
In 2008, conflict in the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issue of the acceptance of homosexuality, the appointment of Bishop Gene Robinson in the Episcopal Church in the USA, and a growing concern about the ambivalent position of the Anglican mother church in the UK led to the founding of a global network of conservative Anglican churches representing more than two thirds of Anglicans throughout the world. This is the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).
Favoring more inclusion of same-sex relationships, "more liberal provinces that are open to changing Church doctrine on marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions include Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, South India, South Africa, the US and Wales." In 2015, the Church in Wales published "a series of prayers which may be said with a couple following the celebration of a civil partnership or civil marriage." In 2016, the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to allow same-sex marriages; a required second reading was scheduled for 2017. Also in 2016, the Anglican Church of Canada voted to allow same-sex marriages, and a second reading will take place in 2019. In the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Diocese of Saldanha Bay proposed a prayer of blessing for same-sex marriages and civil unions, but the proposal did not pass. The archbishop of the Southern African Church, Thabo Makgoba, is "one among few church leaders in Africa to support same-sex marriage."
The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed in 2009 as yet another conservative alternative to the Episcopal Church. It and the Continuing Anglican churches are primarily made up of people who left the Episcopal Church, partially in opposition to its approval of homosexual relationships and gay clergy.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the Baptist denominations and the single largest Protestant group in the U.S., believes that the Bible says practicing homosexuality is a sin, stating clearly that its members "affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.' It is not, however, an unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ." Independent Fundamental Baptist churches (in general) also view homosexuality as sinful or unnatural.
The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) officially regards homosexual conduct "as incompatible with Biblical teaching"; however, there are a number of Baptist churches in the ABCUSA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that have less literal views. The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a group of some 50 churches and organizations, is committed to the "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian persons in their churches.
The historically African-American denominations of the National Baptist Convention have issued no public statements on homosexuality; however, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. does not allow its clergy to officiate at ceremonies for same-sex unions.
Canadian and American Reformed ChurchesEdit
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches cite Biblical sources from Leviticus 20:13, which reads: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable." NIV
A homosexual member of one of these churches will be placed under censure or excommunicated and can only be received again into the communion of saints and be admitted to the Lord's Supper in these Reformed traditions after he/she has declared repentance from his/her homosexuality, which the churches teach is a sin. After repentance, the person is declared forgiven by the church.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)Edit
In July 2013, the General Assembly of the Disciples of Christ issued a "Sense of the Assembly" resolution (GA-1327 "Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All") that (in part) acknowledges that people within society and within the church have been "devalued and discriminated against... because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity," calls for the church to "welcome to all God’s children though differing in... sexual orientation, (and/or) gender identity," and that it "affirm(s) the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither are grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but are a part of God's good creation." Through this resolution, the General Assembling endorsed the ordination of LGBT clergy. GA-1327 also states, however, that local congregations have final say over matters of consciences.
Local Disciples of Christ congregations have also performed same-sex marriages (such as the First Christian Church of Davenport ), although the General Assembly has no official policy on same-sex marriages.
Christian Reformed Church in North AmericaEdit
The Christian Reformed Church in North America has maintained the stance since the 1970s that homosexuality is the direct result of a "broken," sinful world, but that the Church should offer a compassionate community for Christian homosexuals. "Homosexualism" (explicit homosexual behavior) is considered disobedience to God's will revealed in Scripture. Celibate and repentant gays and lesbians should not be denied any right granted to heterosexuals. They have the right to maintain office and be an active member in a congregation, as their gifts can still be used to glorify God. The Church must provide support for homosexuals to find "healing and wholeness" in their "broken sexuality".
Although the First Christian Reformed Church of Toronto (also the first CRC congregation to call a woman minister) voted to allow gays and lesbians in committed partnerships as elders and deacons, this decision was later rescinded in the face of pressure from Classis Toronto (regional gathering of churches).
Eastern Orthodox ChurchEdit
The Orthodox Church holds the opinion that sexuality, as we understand it, is part of the fallen world only. In Orthodox theology both monasticism and marriage are paths to Salvation (sotiriain Greek; literally meaning, "becoming whole"). Celibacy is the ideal path of exclusive concern for the Kingdom of God, exemplified in monasticism, while marriage is a reflection of the Messianic covenant and blessed under the context of true unitive love ("Man must love his wife as Jesus loved his Church": this phrase is part of the Orthodox marriage rite) with openness to procreation ("bearing fruit"). This context can be interpreted by the non-Orthodox as not being exclusive of homosexuality; whereas it is seen as exclusive of homosexuality by the vast majority of Orthodox Christians. Traditionally, the Christian East has maintained a comparatively non-legalistic view of sin (see above), in which homosexuality is spiritually disordered. Although some members of the Church may have assumed an active role in encouraging negative social stereotypes against unrepentant homosexuals, they misrepresent the stance of the Orthodox Church, which does not promote judgment of people but judgment of actions. However, several prominent members of the clergy[who?] have made statements condemning homosexuality.
All jurisdictions, such as the Orthodox Church in America, have taken the approach of welcoming people with "homosexual feelings and emotions," while encouraging them to work towards "overcoming its harmful effects in their lives," while not extending the holy mysteries (sacraments) to people who seek to justify homosexual activity.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, the highest Orthodox Christian representative body in the Americas, reaffirmed in a statement in September 2013 that "the Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, two millennia of Church Tradition, and Canon Law, holds that the sacrament of marriage consists in the union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage reflects the sacred unity that exists between Christ and His Bride, the Church". "Acting upon any sexual attraction outside of sacramental marriage, whether the attraction is heterosexual or homosexual, alienates us from God". Moreover, the Assembly reminded that "persons with homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed on all of humanity by our Lord Jesus Christ".
LGBT activism within Orthodox Christianity has been much less widespread than in Roman Catholicism and many Protestant denominations. In 1980 the group Axios was founded in Los Angeles to affirm and advocate for sexual minorities within the Orthodox Church, and has since started several other chapters in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Jehovah's Witnesses consider same-sex sexual activity to be sinful, but recognize that some people may be prone to homosexuality, including members of their congregation. Members are required to abstain from any homosexual behavior, which is listed as a serious sin, but are told not to hate homosexual individuals. Their literature has stated that Christians should not make homosexuals the target of ridicule or harassment. They believe that God intended marriage to be a permanent and an intimate bond between a man and a woman, and, regarding same-sex marriage, they have stated that it "cannot give homosexuality a cloak of respectability", and are told to avoid debates about the legality of homosexuality: "Even when the laws of the land are in conflict with their Bible-trained conscience, Jehovah's Witnesses do not engage in protests or any form of political campaigns in order to change such laws."
Latter Day Saint/MormonEdit
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsEdit
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) makes it clear that experiencing feelings of same-sex attraction is neither a choice, a sin, nor the fault of the individual and that celibate LGBT members can have a good standing in the Church. LGBT Latter-day Saints are expected to obey the same law of chastity as heterosexual members, including not intentionally arousing sexual feelings and not participating in sexual acts outside of a legal and lawful marriage between one man and one woman. The Church considers engaging in same-sex sexual activity a sin, even if the same-sex relationship is recognized as a legal marriage or other legal union by civil authorities.
In 2007, the Church produced God Loveth His Children, a pamphlet whose stated purpose is to help LGBT members; and in December 2012, launched a web site titled Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction at MormonsAndGays.org "in an effort to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction." This website was later renamed MormonAndGay.org to reflect "the reality that a person doesn’t need to choose between these two identities — one can, in fact, be gay and live faithful to the teachings of Christ."
Leaders of the LDS Church have encouraged all to reach out to LGB persons with love and understanding, which has sparked some criticism and a small protest from some more conservative churches. However, the Church actively opposes the extension of the traditional definition of marriage to also include same-sex couples. In November 2015 a policy was released classifying couples in same-sex marriages as apostates and banning the children of same-sex couples from being baptized until turning 18 and disavowing their parents relationship. This policy brought criticism to the LDS faith and lead to an increase in reports of LDS LGBT youth suicides.
Community of ChristEdit
The Community of Christ officially decided to extend the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples where gay marriage is legal, to provide covenant commitment ceremonies where it is not legal, and to allow the ordination of people in same-sex relationships to the priesthood. However, this is only in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The church does have a presence in countries where homosexuality is punishable by law, even death, so for the protection of the members in those nations, full inclusion of LGBT individuals is limited to the countries where this is not the case. Individual viewpoints do vary, and some congregations may be more welcoming than others. Furthermore, the church has proponents for support of both traditional marriage and same-sex marriages. The First Presidency and the Council of Twelve will need to approve policy revisions recommended by the USA National Conference.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran church body in the United States, allows for LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy. ELCA policy states that LGBTQ+ individuals are welcome and encouraged to become members and to participate in the life of the congregation. The ELCA has provided supplemental resources for the rite of marriage in Evangelical Lutheran Worship which use inclusive language and are suitable for use in LGBTQ+ marriage ceremonies. The group ReconcilingWorks supports the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ members in Lutheran churches in the ELCA, and provides resources to assist ELCA congregations in becoming more welcoming communities for LGBTQ+ persons. ReconcilingWorks recognizes ELCA congregations that have committed to embracing LGBTQ+ persons as Reconciling in Christ congregations.
The current policy on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the ELCA developed over a period of several years. During the national meeting in 2005, delegates voted against a measure that would have allowed non-celibate gay ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions by 503 against to 490 in favor. On 21 August 2009, the ELCA voted 559 to 451 in favor of allowing non-celibate LGBTQ+ persons in committed monogamous relationships to become ordained ministers. Another motion passed at the 2009 Assembly directed its leaders to develop a rite of blessing for same-sex unions. In 2013, the ELCA elected Guy Erwin as their first openly gay bishop.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), the second largest Lutheran church body in the United States, does not permit same-sex marriage and does not ordain homosexuals. The LCMS Synodical President Matthew Harrison was present to register the objections of the LCMS to the ordination of homosexuals at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2009.
In 2006, Lionel Ketola became the first person in a same-sex marriage to be appointed vicar (intern) of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada congregation. This occurred at Newmarket, Ontario. Later that year, the Eastern Synod of the ELCIC voted to allow a "local option" for blessing same-sex unions. The national church, which had previously rejected such a proposal, proceeded to assert that it alone had the authority to make such a decision. The National Church Council agreed in a September ruling, but promised to bring forward another motion authorizing the local option for approval at the 2007 National Convention.
Most Lutheran and united state churches in Germany, Lutheranism's country of origin, are liberal, viewing homosexuality as moral and allow gay and lesbian clergy. Most of the Lutheran and united churches in Germany are blessing same-sex unions. In general, some churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany in the more rural parishes are against blessing same-sex unions, while most other churches do allow them.
In 2006 the Church of Sweden allowed blessings of same-sex unions, and in 2009 allowed same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. KG Hammar, former Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden, has been very vocal in supporting gay and lesbian Lutherans. In 2009, Eva Brunne became the first lesbian woman to be elected as a bishop, in the Diocese of Stockholm.
The Lutheran Church of Norway was divided, with 6 of 11 bishops accepting homosexual practice as moral, even though the church officially rejects it. But in 2015 the Church of Norway allowed the blessing of same-sex unions.
Since 2012, the Church of Denmark has allowed same-sex marriages. However, some controversy has arisen over the constitutionality of this move, as the Danish Constitution requires the state church to uphold the Lutheran doctrine, which states that homosexual acts are sinful.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is divided on the issue and does not approve of same-sex marriages, though many bishops have expressed their acceptance for homosexual unions. As of October 2010, the Church of Finland allows, but does not oblige its clergy to pray for same-sex couples.
Australia and New ZealandEdit
The Lutheran Church of Australia and Lutheran Church of New Zealand, which are both closely tied, reject same-sex unions, and affirm that homosexual acts are immoral.
The Mennonite church has multiple LGBT-affirming denominations. However, acceptance of LGBT Christians varies widely. No Mennonite Churches in North or South America have officially endorsed same-sex marriage, but some have taken steps towards this practice. In the Netherlands, same-sex marriages can be both ordained and conducted by the Mennonite Church since 2001.
The Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church Canada denominations work with the Supportive Communities Network to support the small proportion of congregations that include openly gay members. This is coordinated through the Brethren Mennonite Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests with over 70 participating congregations. In February 2014, the Mountain States Conference of the Mennonite Church USA approved the ministerial license and ordination of an openly lesbian pastor.
In contrast, some Mennonite pastors who performed same-sex unions have had their credentials revoked by their conference and some within the Mennonite Church USA have had their credentials reviewed without any disciplinary actions taken. A small number of Mennonite churches have been censured or disciplined for not expelling openly homosexual members.
The Pink Menno Campaign is a parachurch organization that advocates for the inclusion of LGBT Christians for membership, marriage and ordination in Mennonite churches. The Welcome Committee is an ad hoc group that issued an open letter to Mennonite churches defending inclusion of LBGT members and encourages conversation in churches about the issue.
Methodist Church of Great BritainEdit
The Methodist Church of Great Britain has not taken a definitive stance on homosexuality, although affirms the traditional belief that individuals should remain chaste outside marriage. In 2006, the Church also prohibited the blessing of same sex unions on or off church property.
United Methodist ChurchEdit
On May 7, 2018 the Bishops in the United Methodist Church, a denomination long divided on questions of LGBT equality, have proposed allowing individual pastors and regional church bodies to decide whether to ordain LGBT clergy and perform same-sex weddings.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has a General Conference every four years to make decisions and when a decision is made, they add it to the Book of Discipline. From the 2016 Book of Discipline, the United Methodist Church Website cites multiple decisions on homosexuality. On the basis of membership, all persons are eligible to "attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection". Regarding the ministry of the ordained: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Thus self-identifying homosexuals are not "to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church". Also, "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions are not to be conducted by our ministers nor in our churches". On the basis of funds, the UMC does not want any of their ministries' funds used or allocated to LGBTQ+ groups or organizations. Although UMC does not want the funds to be used to condemn any such organizations either.
On 15 July 2016, Reverend Karen Oliveto became the first openly gay United Methodist Bishop after several annual conferences passed resolutions not to conform with any LGBT discriminatory church laws. UMC Bishops are elected for life. Oliveto is married to Robin Ridenour, who is a deaconess in UMC.
History: Since 1972, the United Methodist Church, as its official position on homosexuality, has maintained the Book of Discipline and has declared "homosexual practice" to be "incompatible with Christian teaching." Following the 1972 incompatibility clause, other restrictions have been added at subsequent General Conferences. Currently the Book of Discipline prohibits the ordination of "practicing, self-avowed homosexuals," forbids clergy from blessing or presiding over same-sex unions, forbids the use of UMC facilities for same-sex union ceremonies and prohibits the use of Church funds for "gay caucuses", or other groups that "promote the acceptance of homosexuality."
Despite this language, members of the Church are not of one mind on this issue. Preceding the incompatibility clause, the Book of Discipline clearly states that "homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons, are individuals of sacred worth." Some believe that this "sacred worth" clause stands in contradiction to the following statement regarding the incompatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching. The Book of Discipline affirms that all persons, both heterosexual and homosexual, are included in the ministry of the church and can receive the gift of God's grace. While the Book of Discipline supports the civil rights of homosexual persons, and rejects the abuse of homosexuals by families and churches, it also calls for laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Failed efforts have been made to pass resolutions to "fully include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the life of the Church" at General Conferences since the introduction of the incompatibility clause in 1972; delegates from annual conferences in the Northeast and on the West Coast typically vote to do so, but are outnumbered by those from Southeast and Africa.
Some of these issues have come before the Judicial Council. On 31 October 2005, the Council undertook two measures on this topic. Firstly, the Council upheld the revocation of Irene Elizabeth Stroud's clergy status for disclosing she is openly lesbian. The council also rendered a decision allowing a Virginia pastor to deny church membership to a gay man. The latter decision appeared to UMC LGBT proponents to contradict both the Constitution and membership policies of the United Methodist Church which stipulate that membership shall be open to all persons "without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition." The Judicial Council had previously found that the word "status" applies to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons (See Decision 1020). Decision 1032 created vigorous debate on the level of autonomy individual pastors and congregations have in interpreting and applying Church doctrine.
Metropolitan Community ChurchEdit
The Metropolitan Community Church is an international fellowship of Christian congregations. It is considered by many to be a full mainline denomination or communion. There are currently 300 congregations in 22 countries, and the Fellowship has a specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Acceptance of homosexuality is an important part of its theology and the church has performed same sex marriage ceremonies since 1968.
The Metropolitan Community Church was instrumental in the first legal challenges to the heterosexual legal definition of marriage in Ontario (see Same-sex marriage in Ontario). Two couples used an old legal procedure called reading the banns to marry without a licence. When same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario, their marriages were recognized.
The Moravian Church declared in 1974 that gays and lesbians were full members of the Christian community. In 2002, the Northern Provincial Synod placed a moratorium for the time being on further decisions about homosexuality. During the 2014 Northern Province Synod, they voted to permit the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals and create a ritual for solemnizing gay relationships in North America. Currently, the questions of marriage and ordination are unresolved in the other provinces in the Moravian Church.
New Apostolic ChurchEdit
The New Apostolic Church does not approve of homosexual acts:
On the grounds of Biblical tenets and Christian tradition, the New Apostolic Church does not approve of practised homosexuality. It is solely for God to determine whether, and to what extent, a person who is absolutely confirmed in his or her homosexual disposition acquires guilt before God through the practice of his or her homosexuality. In this regard, it should be expressly stated that sexual disposition has no relevance in the pastoral care of our brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters who are practicing homosexuals, or living in a homosexual partnership, cannot carry out ministerial and teaching duties in our Church.
Most churches that are within the Pentecostal Movement view homosexual behavior as a sin. The second largest Pentecostal Church in the USA, the Assemblies of God, makes its view clear on homosexuality in a position paper stating: "It should be noted at the outset that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual behavior found anywhere in Scripture. Rather, the consistent sexual ideal is chastity for those outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage and fidelity for those inside such a marriage. There is also abundant evidence that homosexual behavior, along with illicit heterosexual behavior, is immoral and comes under the judgment of God."
The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) similarly condemns homosexuality. These churches therefore oppose same-sex unions, gay pastors, and would tend to forbid congregants who persist in homosexual practices. Politically, there are likely to support politicians with the same viewpoints. Assemblies of God churches insist that those who engage in homosexual activity should cease such behavior, as with any sin. The Church of God In Christ has taken similar positions which condemn homosexuality and same sex marriage.
There are, however, a growing number of LGBT affirming Pentecostal churches, both denominations and independent churches. These include the Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries, The Anthem Church was birthed out of the Pentecostal Movement, and merged into an Inter Denominational Fellowship with members from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Catholic Church, Episcopalian, APCI/GAAAP and the LDS Church, Affirming Pentecostal Church International, the Covenant Network, the Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals (GAAAP), and the Fellowship of Reconciling Pentecostals International (RPI). Those Pentecostal churches that are gay affirming base their position on research done into scripture in the original languages, where they believe they find no condemnation of homosexuality.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is currently the only Presbyterian Denomination in the United States that allows same-sex marriage, and ordains openly LGBT members in committed relationships as teaching elders (clergy), and ruling elders (elders elected to serve on the Session).
On Marriage: In 2014, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to change its definition of marriage, allowing its pastors to officiate same-sex marriages wherever gay marriage is legal. In addition, By a vote of 429-175, leaders of the 1.76 million-member Church voted during the biennial General Assembly in Detroit to change the denomination's Book of Order to describe marriage as being between "two people" (a vote of the individual Presbyteries, which began immediately after the 2014 General Assembly approval, and was completed in 2015).
On Ordination: The PC(USA) approved the ordination of non-celibate gays on 8 July 2010, when, by a vote of 373 to 323, the General Assembly voted to propose to the presbyteries a constitutional amendment to remove the restriction against the ordination of partnered homosexuals. This action required ratification by a majority of the 173 presbyteries within 12 months for the proposed amendment to take effect. On 10 May 2011, a majority of the presbyteries voted to approve the constitutional change. It took effect on 10 July 2011. Until this vote, denominational policy prohibited non-celibate same-sex relations (as well as non-celibate heterosexual relations outside of marriage) for those serving as ministers or as elders on key church boards. After rancorous debate, that policy was upheld in a vote of presbyteries in 2002, but overruled in 2010. The denomination commissioned a study on the "peace, unity, and purity" of the church which found that homosexuality was not, in and of itself, a stumbling block to ordination. The report also suggested that Presbyteries and local governing bodies be the place where case-by-case decisions be made on the "readiness" of homosexual candidates for ministry. In 2008 the General Assembly sent to the presbyteries a vote to remove the wording from the constitution of the denomination that is seen as barring homosexuals from ordination (G-6.106b). The 2008 General Assembly also removed all precedent-setting cases and "authoritative interpretations" concerning homosexuality since 1978 which were seen by full-inclusion advocates as being stumbling blocks to ordination of homosexual individuals.
Other, smaller American Presbyterian bodies, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church condemn same-sex sexual behavior as incompatible with Biblical morality, but believe gays and lesbians can repent and abandon the lifestyle.
In New Zealand the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has debated homosexuality for many years. In 1985 its General Assembly declared "Homosexual acts are sinful." The most recent decision of the Assembly in 2004 declared "this church may not accept... anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman," but added the lemma, "In relation to homosexuality... this ruling shall not prejudice anyone, who as at the date of this meeting, has been accepted for training, licensed, ordained, or inducted."
Many Presbyterians in New Zealand are active in the Association for Reconciling Christians and Congregations, an ecumenical group that supports the full inclusion and participation of all people in the Church, including gay and lesbian persons.
In America, More Light Presbyterians, a coalition of gay-inclusive congregations, was founded in 1980. Today the organization has 194 member churches, while many more informally endorse its mission to more fully welcome people of all sexualities into the life of the church.
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Quakers in many countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, are supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, seeing this as necessary aspect of the Equality Testimony and part of historical Quaker activism against injustice and oppression. Quakers in these countries have become active in the fight for equality of marriage for same-sex couples, and perform same-sex commitment or marriage ceremonies as part of Quaker business.
In the United States of America, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is deeply divided on the issue. The more conservative members of Friends United Meeting and Friends Evangelical Church consider homosexuality to be sinful; but other Friends, such as those in the Friends General Conference and the more progressive individuals and Monthly Meetings or Churches within Friends United Meeting , strongly support equal ecclesiastical rights for gay and lesbian persons and welcome their full participation as members. Hartford, Connecticut Quakers as far back as 1986 issued a statement recognizing both same-sex and heterosexual celebrations of marriage, and in 1988 the Beacon Hill Quaker Meeting in Massachusetts also issued a statement in support of recognizing same-sex marriage ceremonies.
In 2009, several Quaker meetings including the Twin Cities Friends Meeting (St. Paul and Minneapolis) announced they would stop signing certificates for opposite-sex marriages until same-sex marriages were fully legalised. Conservative Friends have differing theological stances on homosexuality. Ohio Yearly Meeting of Conservative Friends defines marriage as between one man and one woman; it does not sanction same-sex unions, or accept sexual relationships outside of marriage. The other two Conservative yearly meetings do accept same-sex marriage.
The majority (52%) of Quakers live in Africa. They do not usually accept homosexuality; for example, Friends Church in Kenya "condemns homosexuality" (Kenya has more Quakers than any other country).
Roman Catholic ChurchEdit
Homosexuality is considered in the Roman Catholic Church teaching under two distinct aspects. Homosexuality as an orientation is not considered sinful, though is referred to, in highly technical language, as an "objective disorder" as it is seen as "ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil". The Church recognizes that homosexuality is an innate condition in most cases, not a choice, and therefore cannot be considered a sin.
Homosexual sexual activity, however, is seen as a "moral disorder" and "homosexual acts" as "contrary to the natural law". The same acts would be considered equally 'contrary to the natural law' if performed by heterosexual couples. "They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine effective and sexual complementary." It should be noted that the term 'disorder' is used several times throughout The Catechism of the Catholic Church to reference sin in general—e.g. venial sin, sin within marriage, the disorder of divorce, etc. All sin creates a dis-ordering of the direction and proper ordering of nature.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that marriage is only between one man and one woman, and opposes same-sex marriage at both the religious and civil levels. The Church also holds that same-sex unions are an unfavorable environment for children and that the legalization of such unions damages society.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2396: "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices."
The largest Swedenborgian denomination in North America, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, does not ordain gay and lesbian ministers, but the oldest denomination, the Swedenborgian Church of North America, does. Ministers in Swedenborgian Church of North America may determine individually whether or not they will marry same-sex couples. Ministers of the General Church of the New Jerusalem are not permitted to marry or bless any same-sex couples.
The Lord's New Church Which Is Nova Hierosolyma has no official doctrine on the debate of homosexuality. Personal opinions vary, but respecting others and not condemning anyone is an important facet of the Lord's New Church: "Human freedom is necessary if men are to be led in freedom according to reason by the Lord into the life in the Lord which is freedom itself." So the Church values the "expression of the thoughts and feelings of all in the Church provided they are not in opposition to the Essentials and the Principles of Doctrine of the Church"
United Church of CanadaEdit
The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, affirms that gay and lesbian persons are welcome in the church and the ministry. The resolution "A) That all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become full member of the Church. B) All members of the Church are eligible to be considered for the Ordered Ministry." was passed in 1988. This was not done, however, without intense debate over what was termed "the issue"; some congregations chose to leave the church rather than support the resolution. In August 2012, the governing body of the church, General Council - which gathers trianually to determine the leadership and direction of the church - selected Rev. Gary Paterson to be its moderator. He is believed to be the first openly gay leader of any mainline Christian denomination anywhere in the world.
The church campaigned starting in 1977 to have the federal government add sexual orientation to federal non-discrimination laws, which was accomplished in 1996. The church has also engaged in activism in favour of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada, and on 20 July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first country in the Americas and the first country outside Europe to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act. In 2012, Gary Paterson became first open gay moderator of United Church of Canada.
United Church of ChristEdit
The polity of the United Church of Christ (UCC) (which was formed by the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church) is such that the views of one setting of the church cannot be unwillingly 'forced' on the Local Church, whether between congregations or between the upper levels of the church and individual congregations. Thus, views on many controversial matters can and do vary among congregations. David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research who has studied the United Church of Christ, said surveys show the national church's pronouncements are often more liberal than the views in the pews but that its governing structure is set up to allow such disagreements.
The United Church of Christ General Synod in 1985 passed a resolution entitled "Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming" saying that "the Fifteenth General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages a policy of non-discrimination in employment, volunteer service and membership policies with regard to sexual orientation; encourages associations, Conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and encourages the congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a non-discrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation within the community of faith". General Synod XIV in 2003 officially added transgender persons to this declaration of full inclusion in the life and leadership of the Church.
In July 2005, the 25th General Synod encouraged congregations to affirm "equal marriage rights for all", and to consider "wedding policies that do not discriminate based on the gender of the couple." The resolution also encouraged congregations to support legislation permitting civil same-sex marriage rights. By the nature of United Church of Christ polity, General Synod resolutions officially speak "to, but not for" the other settings of the denomination (local congregations, associations, conferences, and the national offices). This Synod also expressed respect for those bodies within the church that disagree and called for all members "to engage in serious, respectful, and prayerful discussion of the covenantal relationship of marriage and equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender."
Some associations permit ordination of non-celibate gay clergy and some clergy and congregations are willing to perform or allow same-sex marriages or union services. Approximately 10% of UCC congregations have adopted an official "open and affirming" statement welcoming gay and lesbian persons in all aspects of church life. A few congregations explicitly oppose the General Synod Equal Marriage Rights resolution – an independent movement called "Faithful and Welcoming Churches(FWC)" that partly defines faithful as "Faithful... to the preservation of the family, and to the practice and proclamation of human sexuality as God's gift for marriage between a man and a woman." Many congregations have no official stance; these congregations' de facto stances vary widely in their degree of welcome toward gay and lesbian persons.
The United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns is one of the officially recognized "Historically Underrepresented Groups" in the United Church of Christ, and as such has a dedicated seat on the United Church of Christ Executive Council and a number of other boards. The Biblical Witness Fellowship, a notable conservative renewal organization within the UCC, formed in the 1970s in response to general synods opinions on the sexuality issue and has argued that there "has been a deliberate and forceful attempt within the mainline church to overthrow Biblical revelation [about] ... what it means to be human particularly in the Biblical revelation of a humanity reflective of God and sexually created for [heterosexual] marriage and family."
Uniting Church in AustraliaEdit
The Uniting Church in Australia allows for the membership and ordination of gay and lesbian people. On 17 July 2003 it clarified its 1982 position when the national Assembly meeting stated that people had interpreted the scriptures with integrity in coming to the view that a partnered gay or lesbian person in a committed same sex relationship could be ordained as a minister. It also stated that people who had come to the opposite view had also interpreted the scriptures with integrity. When Presbyteries (regional councils) select candidates for ministry they may use either of these positions, however they cannot formally adopt either position as policy, but must take each person on a case by case basis. By explicitly stating the two positions, this decision fleshes out a 1982 Assembly Standing Committee decision which did not ban people with a homosexual orientation from membership. After emotional debate, the 1997 Assembly did not reach a decision, and the 2000 Assembly decided not to discuss homosexuality.
United Reformed ChurchEdit
The United Reformed Church of Great Britain has committed itself to continue to explore differences of view among its members, in the light of the Church’s understanding of scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A detailed report was submitted to the 2007 General Assembly In 2011, The United Reformed Church in United Kingdom allowed the blessing of same-sex unions. As of 9 July 2016 the church formally voted at 240 votes to 21 in favour of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in any of the local churches, although they do allow individual churches to veto this.
Vineyard Churches, USAEdit
The United States branch of the Association of Vineyard Churches issued the following statement in 2014:
First, we must be committed to both mission and holiness. The message of the kingdom is a message of welcome. Anyone can come to the feast- Jesus himself was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. And at the same time, the message of the kingdom is repent, believe, and follow Jesus in every area of life. At times, it can feel as if these two principles are mutually exclusive. But we are convinced they are not. It is possible to offer the radical welcome of Jesus while calling people to high standards of discipleship.
Second, the Bible promotes, celebrates and affirms marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman. Marriage is not the highest purpose of humanity. The apostle Paul himself was single, as was Jesus. At the same time, it must be honored as a sign and gift from God.
Third, we believe that all humans are to be treated with kindness and compassion, as the image-bearers of God on earth. We are all sinful, and it is profoundly unbiblical to pick out one sin that is stigmatized above others. In the history of the church, homosexual persons experienced such sinful stigmatization. We repent and renounce this sort of sinful treatment.Fourth, we believe that outside of the boundaries of marriage, the Bible calls for abstinence. We know that in our culture, premarital sex, along with many other forms of non-marital sex, has become normative. We want to lovingly help people of any sexual orientation to live up to this standard. We recognize that it can be a difficult journey, and there must be grace along the way. The powerful, beautiful gift of human sexuality must be stewarded with seriousness and compassion within our movement.— Vineyard USA Executive Team (August 2014), VineyardUSA.org
Summary of denominational positions in North America and EuropeEdit
The following table summarizes various denominational practices concerning members who are currently in a homosexual relationship. See also: Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches.
|Denomination||Allows as members||Ordains||Blesses unions||Marries|
|American Baptist||Varies||No||No (official denominational position; local congregational practices may differ)||No (official denominational position; local congregational practices may differ)|
|Assemblies of God||Yes||No||No||No|
|National Baptist Convention||Varies||No||Varies||Varies|
|Southern Baptist Convention||No||No||No||No|
|Catholic Church||Varies (People with homosexual attractions may be admitted as members but those who actively participate in a homosexual lifestyle/commit homosexual acts are not allowed to become members)||No (Those with transitory homosexual tendencies must have such tendencies clearly overcome three years prior to being ordained to the Deaconate)||No||No|
|Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)||Yes (General Assembly has affirmed all orientations; local regions and congregations can make their own choice)||Yes (General Assembly has affirmed all orientations; local regions and congregations can make their own choice)||Varies||Varies (General Assembly does not have a stated a position on same-sex marriage; local regions and congregations may perform)|
|Christian Reformed Church in North America||Yes||Yes (Celibate Only)||No||No|
|Reformed Church in America||Yes||Varies||Varies||Varies (decided within classes)|
|Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)||Yes||No||No||No|
|Church of the Nazarene||Yes (expects celibacy of homosexuals, considers homosexual behavior sinful)||Yes (must remain celibate)||No||No|
|Church of England||Yes||Yes||Varies||No|
|Church of Scotland||Yes||Yes||Varies||No|
|Eastern Orthodox||No||No.||No||No|
|Episcopal||Yes||Yes (All dioceses ordain candidates regardless of orientation. A minority of bishops require celibacy; others have shown an expectation that homosexual clergy should take advantage of what legal and ecclesiastical recognition is available for their unions).||Varies||Varies|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)||No||No||No||No|
|Community of Christ||Yes||Varies. In nations where it is illegal, even punishable by death, homosexuals will not be ordained into the priesthood||Varies (In nations where it is illegal, even punishable by death, same-sex unions of any kind will not be blessed||Varies (In nations where it is illegal, even punishable by death, same-sex marriages will not be performed|
|Evangelical Covenant Church||Undefined (homosexual behavior is considered sinful)||No||No||No|
|Evangelical Free Church of America||No||No||No||No|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America||Yes||Yes||Varies (by discernment of congregation and pastor)||Varies (in civil jurisdictions where allowable and by discernment of congregation and pastor)|
|Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod||No||No||No||No|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|German Lutheran and United Churches in Evangelical Church in Germany||Yes||Yes||Varies||Varies|
|United Methodist Church||Yes||No||No||No|
|Metropolitan Community Church||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|United Pentecostal Church International||No||No||No||No|
|Evangelical Presbyterian Church||No||No||No||No|
|Orthodox Presbyterian Church||No||No||No||No|
|Presbyterian Church (USA)||Yes||Yes||yes||yes)|
|Presbyterian Church in America||No||No||No||No|
|Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)||Yes||Varies||Varies||Varies|
|Old Catholic||Yes||Yes||Yes (Europe) in Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland||No|
|Traditionalist Catholic||No||No||No||No|
|Church of Sweden||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Church of Denmark||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Church of Iceland||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Church of Norway||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Unification Church||Yes||No||No||No|
|Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (UK)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|United Church of Canada||Yes||Yes||Not applicable||Yes|
|United Church of Christ||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Vineyard USA||Varies||No||No||No|
|The Wesleyan Church||No||No||No||No|
|Christian Universal Life Church (International)||Yes||Yes||Yes (Blessings also digitally into countries where homosexuality is illegal.)||Yes|
|Rosicrucian Fellowship (Esoteric Christians)||Undefined (homosexual activity is considered sinful; members are expected to eventually abstain from any sexual practice other than for procreation, performed as a sacramental act)||No (the Fellowship does not ordain; however, access to Discipleship requires Generative Purity)||No||No (marriage is seen as a sacrament binding man and woman; the marriage service requires the presence of an ordained Minister of a Christian church)|
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- i.e.: recognized as legal by governmental laws
- i.e.: recognized by the Church
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