40 Questions for Affirming Christians Part 4

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21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

If we’re talking about legal rights, I’m not sure there’s anything that would I say prevents two adults with fully informed consent getting married. The legal system probably can’t determine that other than some more clear-cut scenarios like father-daughter which can never really be fully informed consent (see previous answer about this).

Churches have always and should continue to exercise their discretion on whether they perform a wedding as a representative of God’s blessing on the union. If I was a pastor, I would do as many do, wanting to meet with the couple in pre-marital counselling first. If I saw signs of coercion or abuse or other signs that would make it less likely to work, I would talk to them about it and quite possibly not perform the marriage. But I’m not a pastor anyway.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

18 generally seems pretty reasonable to me. I believe that’s the current law at least in Ontario, with some exceptions maybe possible for 16 or 17 with parental permission. For comparison, you can drive at 16, can vote and gamble at 18, can drink and smoke at 19. Marriage is a huge responsibility, but enough 18-year-olds are mature enough that I think that’s fair.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

Again, are we talking about legal rights or sacramental covenant? If the former, there might have to be some restrictions like actually living together, but in general, yes, legal rights for everyone! If the latter, no, definitely not.

24. If not, why not?

My previous definition with marriage as a sacramental covenant is a lot different than simply “meaningful.”

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Yes, definitely! Yay for freedom of religion! Let’s just be clear that freedom of religion does not mean freedom to oppress somebody because you disagree with them. It’s one thing for a church to refuse to perform a marriage where their role is essentially to declare God’s blessing. That’s not the same thing as baking a cake. If you are a baker, your role is to bake a cake. It is not to get to know every couple and determine if they are sinless enough for you to associate with. If you can’t handle working with sinners, you can’t handle any job that involves any people, yourself included.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

If that ever actually happens, yes, I will do my best.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

I don’t think shaming and bullying are ever helpful, even when it is “punching up” toward the oppressive group. Being honest about how the oppressive group are hurting the oppressed group is not shaming or bullying. That’s the responsibility of the oppressive group to listen and learn how they can do better.

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

I’d do the same kind of things I do for an opposite-sex couple. I’d be friends with them. I’d welcome them in my church if they wanted to be in my church. I would refer to them by the language they want to be used by, like the simple fact that they are in a “marriage” not a “gay marriage.” I’d encourage pre-marital and marital counselling when there are issues to be worked on.  Yeah, basically I’d treat them like human beings.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

If a church doesn’t support open relationships – regardless of the genitals involved – the church should make that clear. If the church sees it as a sin, they should discipline it as they should any other sin in the church, like greed, envy, and judgementalism. I do think there is such a thing as healthy church discipline, when done in true community among a small group, not simply when arbitrarily punishing people who you think sin differently than you do.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

This is a whole different topic. If you say it is a sin for straight couples, you probably should say the same for same-sex couples. Arguably if they are somewhere without the option of legal marriage, it’s harder to blame them if they don’t stick to that.

In any case, I personally stop short of saying in absolute terms that sex outside of marriage is sinful. I would take the principle of that – definitely not running to the “anything goes” extreme – but not approach it in quite as black-and-white of a way. To me, sex is best within a relational context with absolute trust and vulnerability, mutual submission, lifelong commitment, being unashamedly a part of a wider community (not saying you’re fully committed but not telling anybody else, which can’t be healthy long-term), and so on. Most of the time, the container for those things is marriage, both legal and religious, but I’m not going to say those things can only happen within legal marriage.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Same ways we talk about it with straight couples. Divorce is bad, albeit sometimes necessary in harmful relationships. People use the word fornication to mean different things, so I’m not even sure how to answer that. Pornography I consistently stand against as wrong, even the minority cases when the people involved are consenting, but some Christians disagree on that. Adultery is bad.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.