Held in Turkey on charges of espionage and terrorism, facing a life sentence for doing the work of the church, American Pastor Andrew Brunson’s dramatic release was the work of high-powered diplomacy and prevailing prayer
“Take homosexuality off the sin list.” That’s what gay businessman and donor Mitchell Gold thinks church leaders must do (as quoted by Frank Bruni in The New York Times). Some denominations have heeded such advice already.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally reversed its position on marriage in March, after voting last June to revise its constitutional language defining marriage. It follows in the footsteps of The Episcopal Church in the United States—a denomination “in the forefront of creating inclusive congregations across the country,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group.
But most denominations have not said homosexuality is all right.
Following the PCUSA move, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a coalition of 34,000 churches from 15 denominations representing 15.7 million African-Americans and Latinos, in March broke fellowship with the PCUSA.
“With this action, the PCUSA can no longer base its teachings on 2,000 years of Christian Scripture and tradition, and call itself a Christian entity in the body of Christ. It has forsaken its right by this single wrong act,” said NBCI president Anthony Evans.
A recent Religion News Service table showed eight of 20 denominations listed supporting same-sex marriage. But Jeffrey Walton of The Institute on Religion & Democracy said the sum of those parts isn’t all that large, noting, “by elevating tiny groups like the Alliance of Baptists that favor same-sex marriage while excluding significantly larger churches that oppose it, … it appears 40 percent of these religious groups affirm the practice, when in reality a tiny minority do.” Nevertheless, the list does show how the split over gay marriage is not among competing traditions but within them. The Alliance of Baptists supports gay marriage; the American Baptist Churches USA and the Southern Baptist Convention do not. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America supports gay marriage; the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod does not. And so on.
Liberals and conservatives within denominations often share a name—Baptist or Lutheran—without sharing a position on marriage. To outsiders (and insiders, too) such differences can be confusing, so denominations try to remedy such confusion with explanation. After the pro-gay decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), other Presbyterian denominations—including the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the nation’s second largest—felt compelled to reaffirm their opposition to same-sex marriage.
Top 10 on the Tube
Joel Osteen Ministries is popular on YouTube, but John Piper’s Desiring God is more so. A check of ministries with many YouTube subscribers finds Desiring God and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the Top 10, alongside Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Joyce Meyer. In terms of subscribers and views, the most successful ministry channel appears to be T.B. Joshua’s Emmanuel TV.
What’s the secret to YouTube success? These popular channels offer more than an occasional sermon: Most function as multimedia companies.
At the YouTube channel for Desiring God, viewers can listen to musicians Shane & Shane, watch a short documentary on marriage in the midst of difficulty, or hear Piper’s direct answers to questions such as: “If you had two minutes with the pope, what would you say?” —J.B., with research by Helen Baker