Biblical arguments favor marriage equality, religious researcher says

Covenant Network gets underway on the theme ‘Marriage matters’

November 1, 2013


Christians seeking gender and marriage equality must use biblical arguments, not avoid them, a renowned religious researcher and communications expert told the opening plenary of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians national gathering here Oct. 31.

“Use the Bible, but not the way they (opponents of marriage equality) do or the way were taught in seminary,” said Macky Alston, director of Auburn Media, a division of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. “Go to the core of the biblical message: ‘love God, love neighbor,’” he said.

Another key to successful messaging in support of marriage equality, Alston ― who comes from a distinguished line of Presbyterian ministers, including his father, former General Assembly Moderator Wallace Alston Jr. ― is the power of personal story.

“The ‘journey’ story is a home-run, hands down, Alston said. “In our walk and witness, people see God, they see good. And then they realize something’s wrong with what the church has taught them.”

Supporters of marriage equality must walk with those who are re-examining their position on marriage equality. “They are moving because they like people like us and want to be accepting, to reconcile what they know in their hearts with what they’ve heard from pulpits. They want to move ahead without leaving their Christianity behind.”

Alston told his own moving story about his relationship with his father, who was pastor of Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J. when his son came out. “My father embraced me and told me that nothing could separate our love,” Alston recalled, “but he warned that I would probably meet an unhappy fate.”

Decades later, the elder Alston performed his son’s wedding to his now-husband, Nick. “Decades of rotten church teaching washed away,” he said. “My father’s heart changed when he saw the value of my marriage. He had to do the religious math, Alston said, “and found the way to understand by Stacy Johnson’s book.”

Johnson, a systematic theology professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and author of A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law and Politics, is scheduled to address the Covenant Network gathering Friday afternoon (Nov. 1).

The theme of the Covenant Network conference is Marriage Matters.It continues through Nov. 2. In addition to Alston and Johnson, the group will also hear from Amy Plantinga Pauw, professor of doctrinal theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Alston praised the Presbyterian Church. “I celebrate the fact that you have stood for justice in historic ways in my lifetime,” he said. “This church holds in scripture and tradition the next way ― a 21st century movement ― in which we stand as a testimony to God’s glorious diversity.”

And he concluded with a plea: “Show us the way to live in lavish ways and to be extravagant in our building up of this beloved community,” he implored. “May we all know the depth and breadth of it and may the church continue to bear witness to it.”

  1. 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove , rebuke , exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

    by Mark Rouleau

    November 4, 2013

  2. So I must be one of those Alston has labeled "they" as in an opponent of marriage equality? I would say rather that I am an advocate for the teaching of Jesus -see Matthew 19 and Mark 10: “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Since I am called to love God, then I respect the order established by God; and in order to love my neighbor, I am called to lovingly speak God's truth. Even when that truth clashes with the culture's view and the view of a small number in the Church who disagree with the orthodox, historic view of the Church as shown in Scripture and our Confessions and Book of Order. The long-term view is a position based on physical compatibility in accordance with Jesus’ clear teaching on marriage and its place in God's Kingdom. Now if Alston is on target that the church has been wrong all these many years, then several of our PCUSA Confessions are due for revision as well as the Book of Order. In point of fact, I would suggest if the Covenant Network sincerely adopts the points advocated in its resources like this conference, then they should recognize the continued failure of the PCUSA to adopt the acceptability of same-gender marriage and their group should withdraw to another denomination that agrees with that approach.

    by Thomas L. Fultz

    November 1, 2013