One likely consequence of the June 26 decision of the United States Supreme Court, to legalise
so-called homosexual “marriage”, is its effect on Christians.
Some Christians will see it for what it is; five lawyers overstepping their reach by making law, instead of interpreting it.
However, others may persuade themselves it is okay to go along with the majority, especially now it is the law of the land in the US.
Even before June 26, the Episcopal Church (the US Anglican Church) was, sadly, well along the latter road.
On July 1, the Episcopal Church changed Church law to allow same-sex religious marriages throughout the denomination. The new policy won overwhelming approval from the top Episcopal legislative body, following decades of debate and conflict.
The Episcopalian Church has created division in the Anglican Communion, with more conservative
African churches objecting to its promotion of homosexual rights and women priests.
The worldwide head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, criticised the American Church for inventing a religious ceremony for gay marriages and referring to God in gender neutral terms.
He also said their decision would cause “distress” among the Anglican Communion and have “ramifications” for its relations with other faiths.
The Daily Mail reported that at its convention in Salt Lake City this year, the Episcopal Church agreed to remove any references to marriage being between a man and a woman from its liturgy and to no longer refer to God as “He”.
In a statement released on June 31, Archbishop Welby said that the decision of the Episcopal Church will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
The statement referred to the victims of the June Charleston shootings, saying the Church should focus more on the suffering around the world rather than indulge in identity politics.
Missing from the archbishop’s comments was any reference to being faithful to the teaching of Jesus.
In contrast, Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s commission on ethics and religious liberty, made a strong statement after the Supreme Court decision.
In a comment relevant to New Zealand, which introduced homosexual “marriage” in 2013, Mr Moore
insisted marriage will endure, and the Church will endure, because both are established by God, who is not subject to the weaknesses of Supreme Court justices.
Mr Moore pointed out that this change does not mean the cultural change wrought will be painless.
But in the end, “the Gospel doesn’t need ‘family values’ to flourish”. More fundamentally, Moore said: “The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb.”
The Baptist leader suggested that in the troubled times ahead, the Church should be a guide and a haven for healthy families. He noted: “Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st century culture.”
The top priority for the Church must be to help ordinary families stay intact, at a time when so many forces batter against them. And our individual priority must be to do all we can to grow in holiness.