The blessing of same-sex unions is currently an issue about which some Christian Churches are at present in disagreement with other Christian churches. These disagreements are primarily centered on the interpretation of various scripture passages related to homosexuality, and in some Churches on the varying understandings of homosexuality in psychology, genetics and other scientific data. While various Church bodies have widely varying practices and teachings, individual Christians of every major tradition are involved in practical (orthopraxy) discussions about how to respond to the issue.
See also: List of Christian denominational positions on homosexuality
Those Christians and Churches which support blessing of same-sex unions do so from several perspectives:
Those Christians and Churches which oppose same-sex unions and same-sex marriage do so from some or all of the following reasons:
- The natural physical complementarity between the sexes.
- The biology of sexuality is oriented toward procreation; homosexuality from this perspective is without merit.
- Homosexual practices appear to be condemned in Genesis 18:17-19:29 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Judges 19:1-20:48 (cf. 19:22)
- Homosexual practices are explicitly condemned in Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NASB)
Interpretations of the Bible that deemphasize Old and New Testament passages regarding homosexual practice. Appeals to APA statements regarding homosexuality may influence this belief.
Believes that "the inclusiveness of Baptism" requires equal access to having relationships "blessed" by the church.
Belief that "all love is from God and is a reflection of and participation in Divine Love". And therefore that love present in same sex relationships ought to be recognized/ceremonialized in a church setting.
It is a matter of justice. Desire to provide "equality" or "equal access" in marriage services so as not to "marginalize" LGBT people or relationships.
It is a "compassionate response" that improves gay-straight relations and reduces anti-gay hate speech.
It is an affirmative good that stands alongside straight marriage and committed monastic celibacy as a revelation of God's self in the world.
Marriage is a Sacrament ("Matrimony") defined first in the Book of Genesis, then later in the teachings of Christ as a union of man and woman.
The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, also appeals to the reasoning of the Natural Law Tradition. According to Natural Law the "natural order" of human sexuality is oriented toward the opposite sex for several reasons:
The natural physical complementarity between the sexes.
The biology of sexuality is oriented toward procreation; homosexuality from this perspective is without merit.
Many churches rely on the words of the Bible as Divine Revelation (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition).
Traditional or literal interpretations of Old and New Testament passages opposing homosexual activity:
Homosexual practices appear to be condemned in Genesis 18:17-19:29 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Judges 19:1-20:48 (cf. 19:22)
Homosexual practices are explicitly condemned in Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NASB)
Moral condemnations against rectal intercourse that transcend biblical interpretation and that some say derive from homophobia. Theological differences between support and opposition
Some people feel that same-sex unions are middle ground between same sex marriage and condemnation of same sex relationships. Unions as a 'legal status' between individuals does not by itself conflict with Church teachings about the sacredness of "Marriage".
The Episcopal Church USA, many dioceses of which permit the blessing of same-sex unions, nevertheless rejected at their 2006 General Convention a resolution allowing the solemnization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage is recognized by civil law.
Controversy between same-sex union and marriage
Same sex marriage is forbidden in a majority of Christian denominations, including Roman Catholics, Protestants (mainline, evangelical, non-denominational, and fundamentalist churches), Orthodox (the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches) Churches, and the LDS Church. According to a 2002 study by the Marriage Law Project, which opposes same-sex marriage, denominations claiming 97.6% of US Christians and 99.97% of Christians worldwide presently declare that marriage is between a man and a woman. Because same sex religious unions are not widespread and because civil unions do not require religious officiation, documentation of the incidence of church blessing of same sex couples is difficult.
Churches unfavorable to same-sex unions and marriage
Due to its "local option", a number of congregations and ministers of the United Church of Canada (a merger of Congregationalist, Presbyterian and Methodist congregations in Canada following presbyterian polity) officiate at same-sex marriages, which are fully legal in Canada.
In the Anglican Communion, Integrity Toronto has been divided over whether to continue pressing for same-sex blessings, or to revise their goals to seek full marriage rights. Canberra Quakers and Queensland Quakers are prepared to celebrate same sex marriages despite the lack of legal recognition. See Quaker views of homosexuality
Many smaller denominations, such as the Eucharistic Catholic Church also solemnize same-sex marriages.
Churches favorable to same-sex marriage
Churches favorable to Same-sex union
The Archbishop of Canterbury requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion to report to him by September, 2004. The Commission was asked to consider the legal and theological implications flowing from decisions related to homosexuality that were apparently threatening the communion. In addition to decisions relating to the blessing of same sex unions, the Commission was asked to examine the decision of the Episcopal Church (USA) to appoint a priest, Gene Robinson, in a committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops. The Commission was charged with specifically considering the effects on communion: "impaired and broken communion," between provinces of the Anglican Communion over the above decisions.
In its report, known as the Windsor Report, the Commission put forward the following general findings"
The Commission regrets that without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion:
- The Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson
- The 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) declared that 'local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions'
- The Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions.
- The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships.
- A number of primates and other bishops have taken it upon themselves to intervene in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion.
The Commission called for a moratorium on the blessing of same sex unions, and recommended that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada "be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation." The report was roundly condemned by the gay community and progressive theologians for its partiality. (For example, while it calls for both liberals and conservatives to express regret for actions contributing to disunity, it acknowledges that conservatives may have committees such actions out of a sense of duty, but extends no such understanding to the Dioceses of New Westminster or New Hampshire).
The Episcopal Church (USA) proceeded with the consecration of Gene Robinson
The 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) declared that 'local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions'
The Diocese of New Westminster approved the use of public Rites for the Blessing of same sex unions.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same sex relationships.
A number of primates and other bishops have taken it upon themselves to intervene in the affairs of other provinces of the Communion. Report of the Lambeth Commission
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2004 voted to defer a decision of same-sex blessings until 2007, but also to "Affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships".
Anglican Church of Canada
Blessing of same sex unions became a subject of media attention in the Vancouver area in May, 2003 when Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster announced that he had given priests in some parishes the authority to bless gay and lesbian unions.
Diocese of New Westminster
This section has been tagged since January 2007.
The issue of blessing of same-sex unions was the subject of a resolution at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 30 - August 8, 2003. After debate, the following resolution was concurred in and became an Act of the Convention:
Episcopal Church of the USA
Four churches of the Utrecht Union, which shares full communion with the Anglican Churches through the Bonn Agreement, also permit such blessings: namely, Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands (the mother church) permits blessings of gay civil marriages, and the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, and Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics in Germany permit blessings of gay civil unions. The Old Catholic Church of Austria also permits such blessings (no civil unions there). Because of this (as well as the ordination of women), the Old Catholic Church in Slovakia and Polish National Catholic Church (USA) seceded from the Union in 2004.
Old Catholic Churches (Utrecht Union)
The Alliance of Baptists has supported the legal right to marry; its position on corollary church services is unclear.
The 2006 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted that blessing civil partnerships should be a matter of conscience for individual ministers. Conservatives in the Kirk argued that the reform would have to be ratified by local presbyteries.
Church of Scotland
Lutheran and Reformed Churches
In 2006, the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada's full communion partner through the Waterloo Declaration, voted to allow a "local option" provision similar to that in New Westminster, precipitating a dispute between the synod and the national church (which had previously rejected the proposal) as to where the authority to make that decision lay. In September of that year, the ELCIC's national church council ruled that authority to permit the local option lay with the National Convention. The Council agreed to intiate further study on the issue and to bring forward another motion permitting the local option to the 2007 National Convention.
The Church of Sweden and the Church of Denmark (in full communion with the Anglican Churches of the British Isles through the Porvoo Communion) allow blessings of same-sex couples.
Sweden and Denmark
The lutheran church Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allowed blessings of same-sex couples.
In addition, some Lutheran, United and Reformed churches within the Protestant Church in Germany Germany
Swiss Reformed Church Switzerland
Protestant Church in the Netherlands Netherlands
These lutheran, united and reformed churches in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and Austria bless same-gender unions.
- Evangelische Kirche H.B. in Österreich Austria
The Presbyterian Church USA has a limited allowance for such blessings, but does not officially endorse that the unions be consummated.
The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) has ruled that same-sex ceremonies are not forbidden, as long as they are not considered to be the same as marriage services.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Methodist Church of Great Britain voted in 2005 to allow a local option for ministers who wishes to perform same-sex blessings. However, a year later, the Church voted not to allow formal blessings for same-sex partnerships in its churches after all. Ministers may now instead offer informal, private prayers for couples.
The United Methodist Church prohibits celebrations of same-sex unions by its elders and in its churches.
The Moravian Church in North America's Northern Province has passed several liberal resolutions on homosexuality, but has not yet been able to "address the issue of a marriage covenant between homosexual persons".
Moravian Church (North America)
The Protestant Church in the Netherlands has chosen not to address marriage in its post-merger canon law; however, the by-laws of the church allow for the blessing of relationships outside of marriage.
Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Some ministers of the Unity School of Christianity officiate at commitment ceremonies. The Church prints certificates to recognise these occasions.
The United Church of Christ has no formal rules requiring or prohibiting solemnization of wedding vows, but owing to its Congregational polity and constitution,