As I have been listening in, there is a distinction that must be clarified. Many discuss marriage as a civil right. But I am not so sure that civil rights is the best way to understand Christian marriage.
Let's say that there is a Joe in my congregation who is in his mid forties. Joe has been married for almost 20 years and has three children with his wife.
One day Joe abandons his wife and children and moves in with his co-worker Jane with whom he has been having an affair for the past three years.
Joe comes into the church and explains how for the first time in his life he feels like he has found his soul mate. He always felt trapped in his other life and felt like he was acting out someone else's role and dream. But Jane has freed him from all that and he would love it if the church would marry he and Jane.
Listen, I would not conduct Joe's wedding. Joe abandoned his wife and his children. He abandoned with marriage vows to his wife and to his God. And most likely, I would be counseling his wife and children through this abandonment.
More than that, if I were to marry Joe in the church, then in essence, I would be declaring that both God and the church approve and blesses Joe's adultery and abandonment of his wife and children.
I cannot do that. As a pastor, I cannot be a part of something that God has already determined to be a sin.
Joe and Jane can get married through the civil courts. There is nothing to keep him from doing that. But when Joe shows up at the church and wants a pastor to marry him in the church, that's a whole other thing.
Joe and Jane can be a part of the church. But if they go around saying adultery is fantastic and that everyone should try adultery, or that God now blesses and honors adultery, then we would have lots issues with them in the church.
Precisely because Christian marriage is not a civil right but a sacred rite.
Now let's apply a similar situation with gay marriage.
Let me start by saying that all human beings deserve to be treated with respect and civility. All human beings have civil rights.
Currently, there is nothing to stop a gay couple from getting married in the state of Washington. They can do so with any justice of the peace or courthouse.
Also, I think gay couples have every right to visitation in hospitals, health benefits, etc. These are all issues of civil rights.
But when a gay couple comes to the church to be married, what they are asking is for the church to bless and call good that which the Bible defines as sin.
Again, please hear that this is not about welcoming people. All people are welcome in the life of the church. All sinners - heterosexual, homosexual, all people - are welcome in God's church. But that's the thing, in the church, sin is still called sin.
What is being asked of the church in the current redefinition of marriage debates in the life of the church is to bless and honor homosexual practice. And that is something that the church cannot do.
Because when someone is being married in the church, it is no longer a civil act, but a sacred act.
Christian marriage is a sacred rite. Christian marriage is not a civil right.