Why same-sex marriage is expected to heat up this election among evangelicals

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By SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY
c. 2014 Religion News Service

(RNS) As more states affirm same-sex marriage, U.S. evangelicals continue to wrestle with homosexuality, setting boundaries for what’s acceptable and what’s not, and setting the stage for a heated fall election season.

This week, things got hotter.

A new group called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality launched Tuesday (Sept. 9) and is collecting signatures from evangelicals who support same-sex marriage. Its advisory board includes author and speaker Brian McLaren, former National Association of Evangelicals vice president Richard Cizik, and former USAID faith adviser Chris LaTondresse. Cizik resigned from his NAE position over his support for same-sex civil unions.

“Our organization is not taking a theological position on the issue of the sacrament of marriage,” said spokesman Brandan Robertson. “We just want evangelicals to see that it is possible to hold a plethora of beliefs about sexuality and marriage while affirming the rights of LGBTQ men and women to be civilly married under the law.”

Testing evangelical boundaries didn’t work well for World Vision earlier this year when it decided and then reversed its position on same-sex employees. The new marriage equality group is already facing challenges from evangelical institutions. An ad it placed with Christianity Today, World and Relevant magazines was rejected by all three evangelical mainstays.

The organization, founded by two straight evangelicals, Josh Dickson and Michael Saltsman, will join other groups planning to dialogue on same-sex marriage this fall.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will host a conference in Nashville, Tenn., in October on “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” urging faith leaders to oppose same-sex marriage.

At the other end of the spectrum, author Matthew Vines will lead a gathering in November in Washington focused on LGBT inclusion in churches. Vines is hopeful the new group might change evangelical minds.

“We still haven’t arrived at a sea change among evangelicals, but the tone and passion around the issue of civil marriage equality has certainly been changing as more evangelicals are accepting that same-sex marriage will soon be the law of the land, whether they are pleased about it or not,” Vines said. “I think they have a chance to persuade more evangelicals to lay down their arms in this culture war battle that has been so harmful to the primary mission of the church.”

The group’s arguments may sway younger evangelicals who are more open to the idea that theology shouldn’t dictate public policy, said Eric Teetsel, director of the Manhattan Declaration, a conservative movement focused on life, marriage and religious freedom issues.

“It’s ironic that you have a group of politically liberal Christians who have made a name for themselves specifically by using theological principles to advocate political ends,” Teetsel said. “If you told them that what the Bible says about caring for the poor shouldn’t be applied to foreign policy, they would dismiss it. I’m confused to why they draw this line when it comes to marriage.”

Research on evangelicals suggest that younger evangelicals are more likely to support same-sex marriage than those of an older generation, though many still resist it.

In 2012, Pew found that 29 percent of young white evangelicals (age 18-29) expressed support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, higher than older evangelicals at 17 percent. That’s far below the level of support for same-sex marriage expressed by young adults as a whole (65 percent).

A 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey suggested that white evangelical Protestant millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same-sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43 percent compared to 19 percent).

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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8 Comments on "Why same-sex marriage is expected to heat up this election among evangelicals"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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james
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Hang on to your hats!! The libs/progs are on the march. Yes, Donnie, this would be a good time to leave the umc……………………….

Kevin
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And one of the founding members of this group is a former deputy director of faith outreach for the Democratic National Committee. Where did the start up money come from for this initiative? I see this as little more that a partisan political initiative disguised as an evangelical movement.

Donnie
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” I see this as little more that a partisan political initiative disguised as an evangelical movement.”

That is how I view the entire UMC denomination. And why I left.

Sandy Wylie
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Good for these evangelicals. They are on the right side of history and the right side of the gospel. This is largely a generational issue, which means that their views will eventually prevail.

ryan
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First off, this isn’t an evangelical movement. The article even has a picture of Brian McLaren, who is now in no way associated with evangelicalism.
Also, this isn’t about being on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side of history. As a trained historian I should add that history doesn’t have a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ side. God does declare a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ side however. And what God has established is what we should be pursuing. What is it exactly that God says about marriage?

Joshua
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Those who yell the loudest have the most to hide!

Mark
Guest

99+ percent of history views marriage as an exclusively opposite-sex institution. Indeed, its opposite-sex nature has been its defining characteristic. Even if you disregard Christian teaching, from a purely rational perspective it is naive to think that redefining marriage will not have long-term negative consequences.

The “right side of history” is the side of traditional marriage.

Wes Andrews
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Hummmm. “Right side of history” is another progressive phrase that just doesn’t make sense. “Right side of history” = “Right side of culture”. Abolitionists weren’t on the “right side of history/culture” for decades. Missionaries who help the suffering in developing countries are really NOT on the “right side of local history/culture”. People who believe in the sanctity of life are NOT on the “right side of history/culture.” Christians who established the first hospitals and schools weren’t on the “right side of history/culture” at the time, either. Paul encouraging sexual morality, honesty, kindness, forgiveness in his letters to the churches was… Read more »
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