Christian leaders differ sharply on gay marriage




As the politics and public opinion surrounding same-sex marriage evolve, Kenosha’s Christian leaders are answering questions regarding homosexuality and their definitions of marriage.

Beliefs about gay marriage range from complete endorsement to total objection to any official recognition of a same-sex couple.

Though gays and lesbians would be allowed in Kenosha-area congregations, a few pastors maintain handholding and displays of affection would not be.

Vastly different beliefs about biblical marriage

There is no clear-cut consensus about what constitutes a biblical marriage within Kenosha’s Christian community. The Rev. Dean Carlson of Kenosha Bible Church insists only a marriage between one man and one woman is validated by God.

Carlson added that if God wanted same-sex relations, he believes God would have provided sexual organs specifically for intimacy between two men or two women.

“Biologically speaking, if God intended for creatures of the same gender to be married, he most certainly would have physically accommodated need for physical intimacy,” he said. “He would have arranged for there to be connective parts to their bodies, and there are not.”

For Carlson, procreation is a key component of marriage, among other virtues he identifies in the relationship between Adam and Eve from the first two chapters of Genesis.

The Rev. William Hayward of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and Congregation of Marians, a Roman Catholic order, said the biblical definition of marriage is ultimately a New Testament definition of marriage.

“A committed union between a man and a woman in a sexual relationship with a purpose, among other things, for bringing children into the world and reflecting the relationship of Christ between he and his church” constitutes marriage for Hayward.

The Rev. Sheila Rawn of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church disagrees.

“I think we’ve reached a tipping point to where discussions about same-sex marriage are no longer abstract,” Rawn said. “Everyone knows someone who’s gay, whether it be your roommate, neighbor or a family member.”

Rawn, who said she was not speaking on behalf of her diverse congregation, seeks to represent the many Christians who support marriage equality because of their faith, not in spite of it.

“I think it’s important to note that Jesus didn’t comment on same-sex marriage, just as he didn’t comment on caffeinated beverages,” Rawn said. “In the Bible, Jesus always crosses the taboos, whether it be him associating with the dead or lepers or the Samaritan woman.”

Similarly, the Rev. Tim Berlew of First United Methodist Church said there is no such thing as a set biblical marriage, partly because God seems to bless various arrangements throughout scripture.

Others, such as Pastor Dave Nelson of Great Lakes Church, are steering clear of even discussing the matter.

“I’ve intentionally chosen to stay away from the controversy of those issues, because our church will never be defined by those types of issues,” Nelson said. “I believe that anybody can be a follower of Jesus Christ. We don’t want to alienate a big group of people.”

Nelson said there are gays and lesbians at Great Lakes and that anyone is welcome to come.

More discussions, debating ahead

Carlson and Hayward are thankful they have not had to face challenges from homosexuals in their congregations.

“I would like to think that I would receive them, but it wouldn’t alter the way I preach,” Carlson said.

“At some point, I’m certain we’d have to sit down and chat. If I’d happen to see behavior that was inappropriate, I would need to say ‘there is a time and place,’” he added. For Carlson, inappropriate conduct would be any display of affection, even holding hands or kissing.

Hayward said he would not provide communion to those in an active same-sex relationship, although he said that decision would cause him deep anguish. He also does not believe those in a committed same-sex relationship go to heaven.

That counters with Pope Francis, who earlier this summer made off-the-cuff remarks to reporters about gay priests while aboard the papal plane leaving Brazil, the site of his first foreign trip. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said, The New York Times reported.

Asked about Francis’ recent comments regarding gay priests, Hayward was perplexed.

“I would be a little concerned if he said it’s okay to have gay priests,” admitting he does not know the whole context of Francis’ remarks. “Sometimes we say ‘gay’ meaning someone is gay and sometimes we mean ‘gay’ to mean one who actively promotes that lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, recent polls suggest growing acceptance for marriage equality in Wisconsin. Just six years ago, voters approved 59 to 41 a same-sex marriage ban. However, a new poll from Public Policy Polling shows 44 percent support same-sex marriage, while 46 percent still do not.


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