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The United Church of Christ and Homosexual Marriage

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The United Church of Christ is about to sanction homosexual marriages, if the president of the errant denomination gets his way. The Rev. John H. Thomas, addressing about 200 UCC delegates, made an emotional appeal that called for “full civil and religious equality for same-sex couples.” The article reports that many “of the people in attendance wept during Thomas’ speech.”[1] I went to the UCC website to get some idea of the denomination’s doctrinal position. Here’s what I found:

The United Church of Christ embraces a theological heritage that affirms the Bible as the authoritative witness to the Word of God, the creeds of the ecumenical councils, and the confessions of the Reformation. The UCC has roots in the “covenantal” tradition—meaning there is no centralized authority or hierarchy that can impose any doctrine or form of worship on its members. Christ alone is Head of the church. We seek a balance between freedom of conscience and accountability to the apostolic faith. The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of the faith.

This doctrinal statement reads like the latest Supreme Court decision on the Ten Commandments—sic et non—yes and no.

For the UCC, the Bible isn’t the Word of God; it’s “the authoritative witness to the Word of God.” The written Word of God is non-objective. What someone says the “word of God” is becomes the “word of God.” How convenient. Each and every church can make up its own doctrine since “there is no centralized authority or hierarchy that can impose any doctrine . . . on its members.” Then why have a denomination? So even this squishy statement of non-faith is itself irrelevant and without authority. The UCC “receives the historic creeds and confessions,” but it really doesn’t pay much attention to them.

All of this helps explain how Thomas finds biblical support for homosexual marriage. For him, the Bible is always “becoming.” It’s only authoritative when he needs it to be authoritative, and if he can’t find what he’s looking for in the Bible, he can always make things up or follow the latest moral trends. There’s no way to support homosexual marriage based either on the creation account (Gen. 1:27–28; 2:18–25) or Jesus’ statement about what was true about marriage “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:5). There’s no way to legitimize homosexual marriage using the Bible unless you make the Bible a “witness” to some other “word of God” that can be pulled out of thin air anytime it becomes necessary to defend a belief or behavior that happens to be fashionable.

Thomas skips all of the direct anti-homosexual references and moves to misapplication of what it means to be an alien. “Withholding a marriage certificate remains one of the few remaining ways of limiting full citizenship to some among us who are perceived to be alien or ‘other.’ How do we square this with the frequent biblical admonition to ‘treat the alien in our midst as a citizen’? Not to tolerate. Not to grant second-class status. But to treat as citizens.” I did not know a person had to be married to be a full citizen. Thomas’s understanding of “alien” is stunning. In biblical terms, an alien was someone from another country, not of a different “sexual orientation.” Aliens were welcomed in the land of promise as long as they followed the laws God had given to Israel: “There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 24:22). In the chapter where God condemns homosexuality (Lev. 18:22), Israel is warned not to follow this and other “alien” abominations:

“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land may not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 18:24–30).

The same admonition is found in Leviticus 20. Homosexuality is condemned (20:13), and God warns His covenant people not to follow the “customs of the nations” (20:23)—one of which was homosexuality—or the land will spew them out. It seems that true Bible-believing Christians within the UCC denomination might be spewing out the denomination. One member commented: “A large segment of the church is saying this is one step too far.”

Endnote:

[1] John Blake, “Church president backs gay marriage,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (June 29, 2005), A3.

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