Back in May, I wrote that the growing international acceptance of civil marriage for same sex couples would inevitably nudge the churches to rethink their own positions, nudging them to greater acceptance. (See “Marriage Equality and the Church” ). Some recent news stories illustrate the point.
In the UK, the change in Swedish law is already having a direct imact on the Anglican church, which has close ties to the Lutherans. The resonse described here is about two English bishops who have written to the Lutherans to express their “concern” that the change in Swedish law will ut pressure on the English church to accept same sex marriage:
From the Daily Mail online:
“The Church of England warned last night that it is under pressure to accept gay marriage.
…….The concerns were raised in a letter from Bishop of Guildford Dr Christopher Hill and Bishop of Chichester Dr John Hinds to leaders of the Swedish state church which has close and formal links with the Anglicans.…….
Their letter was a response to moves in the Church of Sweden to offer gender neutral marriage services which could be used for either brides and grooms or for same sex couples.”
I would agree that their concern is well founded, but speaking for myself, I would change the description from “concern” to “delight”.
Also in the UK, the strongest opponents of marriage, led by the Bisho of Rochester, are now formally leaving the Anglican Church, thinking that they are leading a groundswell movement of resistance. Independent observers think otherwise, and the departure of the bigots will simply make it easier for the rest of the chuirch to make real progress. See:
The Independent LeadingArticle: The bishop is embracing a lost cause.
The Daily Telegraph There’s no pride in bashing gays, bishop
The Times Online The spiritual battle for the soul of Anglicanism
In the US, the Southern Baptist Convention is probably the most hostile of the bigger churches. But even here, there are signs that a rethink is coming. In a leading article in the Baptist Standard, the editor write that it is Time for A Rethink on Homosexuality. He continues to believe that revelation, but at least concedes that there is no reason to be harsher on this “sin” than on others:
Small consolation, I know, but movement none the less. In New Hampshire, meanwhile, a columnist for another Baptist publication, the Manchester Examiner, makes explicit the connection between the NH marriage law, and its inevitable result of pressure on the church for a rethink:
“In New Hampshire, the Southern Baptists have planted a number of new churches in the recent decade. … How will the Southern Baptists react to a changing landscape where homosexuality is becoming more tolerated and accepted in mainstream New Hampshire society? People outside the church are less likely to view it as wrong or different, just as they view other things considered sexual sin. Churches have acclimated and adjusted to cohabiting heterosexual couples,divorce and remarriage (once considered adultery by many Baptists), and many other things once considered anathema.
Where once homosexuality was considered a disease or psychological disorder, it is now becoming better understood. And even if a church believes that the Bible teaches homosexuality is sin, should it be distinguished from other sexual sins? If churches are going to be opposed to homosexuality, they must be opposed to all sexual sin equally. Is there a bias against homosexuals that needs to be overcome to reach them effectively? And if so, can churches overcome it?”