The Herald Bulletin

October 12, 2013

Churches split on views of same-gender relationships

Same-gender couples embraced by local churches, but marriage is a different story

By Traci L. Moyer
The Herald Bulletin

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ANDERSON — Pastor Rick Vale says people are in a dilemma when it comes to same-sex marriage.

The quandary, he said, is generating a lot of discussion.

“Nationally there is a legal acceptance of same-gender couples and the new generations in the church – those that are college age – have a different view of the situation than their parents and grandparents,” said Vale, the senior pastor of Central Christian Church, 923 Jackson St., Anderson.

According to Indiana law, only a female has the right to marry a male and only a male has the right to marry a female. The law also states that a marriage between same-gender couples is prohibited and void even if the marriage is considered lawful in other states.

In 2014, legislators will consider changing that law with an amendment to the state’s constitution.

The Indiana General Assembly postponed an amendment earlier this year that would change the state’s constitution regarding same-sex marriage.

If passed, House Joint Resolution No. 6 will only allow or recognize a marriage between “one man and one woman.” The proposed legislation would also not recognize a “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage” from another state.

The amendment will be revisited in the January-March legislative session.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to overturn a part of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. The decision will allow people living in states that recognize same-sex marriage to receive the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Vale said his Sunday congregation, numbering approximately 150 people, has about three or four same-sex couples and a handful of gays and lesbians in attendance. He also said the issue of homosexuality is not a point of contention for his church.

“Several of our churches have homosexual clergy,” he said. “In our denomination, it simply is not an issue.”

Vale said he would even consider “blessing” a same-sex relationship, although he cannot legally marry the couple.

“We are open to blessing any covenant made between two adults who love each other, because we believe that God and the scripture command us to do so, even in the face of congregations who believe that God and the scripture command them not to do so,” he said. “We also believe that dividing space between our congregations is the place where freedom in Jesus and harmony of believers meet.”

A church blessing is very similar to a traditional marriage ceremony, but no paperwork is filed with the state to legalize the union. Vale said the idea of preforming a church blessing is only theoretical at this point because the opportunity has not presented itself. He also said a church blessing would only be considered — like a marriage — after careful consideration between the parties involved.

Pastor Mike Schwartz disagrees with Vale. He said a marriage should only be between one man and one woman. Schwartz is the associate pastor of pastoral care for Madison Park Church of God, 6607 Providence Drive, Anderson.

“Marriage has always been a religious institution,” he said. “There is nowhere in scripture that I see God, in any way or any form, approving of a same-gender marriage.”

Schwartz said there are same-sex couples that attend his church, but that does not make the relationship right in God’s eyes.

“First off, God loves everyone,” he said. “And let’s face it; personally, I do not have any different view of it than I would of a couple in a same-sex relationship. I believe it is exactly the same thing as a relationship outside of a marriage. I do not think God approves of a relationship outside of marriage, and it is limited to one man and one woman.”

Schwartz said as a state, Indiana would be slower to change its stance on issues like same-sex marriage than other states because of its traditional values.

“I think there are two things going on here,” he said. “If we are looking at marriage as just a legal institution, then that would be a different thing. But marriage has always been a religious institution.”

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