Access to Sacraments: Thoughts On Gay Marriage

With the state of New York looking like it is moving towards recognising same sex marriage and the Anglican community looking like it is going to split over this issue, it is hard for those of in the broader Christian community to avoid thinking about a matter that tears our congregations and denominations.

My own feelings on this were shaped by reading Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell. It helped put the whole issue into a longer debate on inclusively and faith, as well as give me a better picture of the evolution of the concept of marriage as a sacrament.

Not surprisingly, I support same sex marriage. I do feel that monogamy is the ideal for permanent relationships. I really wonder what the religious right has against monogamy.

Yet, even if I opposed same sex marriage, I would not agree with the right of
the state to determine who has access or is denied access to the sacraments of my church. It is not up to the state to determine who I, as clergy, baptise or offer communion to. Equally, it is not up to the state to determine who I can offer the marriage sacrament to.

I would have thought that religious conservatives would, as a whole,
share this view. The driving underground of Christian communities in
various totalitarian societies would have, in my rather naive view, encouraged a view that one would never call upon the state to regulate doctrines and communal expressions of the faith. The times and places where churches and the state are intertwined are bad times for the ongoing, ever renewing essence of a living faith.

This is an issue that is dividing communities that share a great deal; causing pain and tears. There are people who I work with on environmental, peace and economic justice concerns who are on the other side of the issue than I am. Yet at the end of the day, when I am called to witness a marriage it is not the gender of those who are sharing a sacrament that determines if I am participating in a valid experience of a sacrament of the church—it is the love, commitment and determination of the couple which echoes that of the creator that is truly important.


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