Marriage: Why It Matters to the Church

                                        The Rev. Larry Owens
Keynote Address ~ Covenant Network Regional ConferenceOwens
Idlewild Presbyterian Church ~ Memphis, TN ~ November 8, 2014


“Lord, we are forever asking you for many things, and what you are forever giving us instead…is the gift of one another.”

Let me begin with the Good News!  Friends, it looks like Marriage is finally out of the closet! And my husband and I couldn’t be any happier!  Leave it up to lesbigays to take over a dying neighborhood, reclaim what others had abandoned, put their blood, sweat and tears into creating a new living space, and make this old house of marriage cool again!

And let me add, standing here as a sixth generation Mississippian, you’ve got to know that I never imagined that this day would come in my lifetime. Growing up gay in the Deep South (oh, yes, and left-handed), I needed all the visible virtues I could display in a culture shaped by a tradition of violence and power that wooed its courtiers in an enticing dance of playful gentility and religious purity.

In that culture, I learned, early on, thank God, that I was created in the image of God and that Jesus loved me. Only later would I learn not to push it, especially as a gay person. In fact, religion and culture conspired together to become the major source of the vehement scorn heaped on folks like me. That I was an abomination was one of those beliefs that knew no denominational lines: Catholics, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, even Unitarians agreed.   I was, according to Roman hierarchy in the spirit of Thomas Aquinas, “intrinsically evil, and therefore, must be considered objectively disordered.”1 That’s a tough verdict laid on the shoulders of any fourteen year old. Especially, when the one thing he wants more than anything is to be loved and to fit in.

One never knew where such rhetoric would appear but it was always sustained by disgust as well as trivialization. I remember a Sunday dinner when my uncle commented on a bunch of queers, including the Symphony conductor, who were arrested by police in a late-night undercover operation at the City Auditorium.  I remember my grandmother saying, “Edward, please. Let’s not talk about such shameful things at the table. Would you pass the chicken?”

Where I grew up, marriage was the norm. Didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, white or black, educated or ignorant, nobody in the community wanted you to be a loner.  The only loners in town were a handful of women everyone described as old maids and the quirky fellow down the street who everyone described (either with a wink or a doleful downward glance) as “just not the marrying kind.”

I don’t fault my town for holding out that dream for me. I cherish their level of consciousness for good on my behalf. Perhaps, it’s just a matter of human wiring that we’re all born conservatives. When you’re young it’s good not to touch a hot stove or to look both ways before you cross the street.  Otherwise, a more liberal approach might get us killed!

But somewhere along the way we must grow up and invite our children to “hold their own hands” and choose what they consider best for them.  That’s a hard thing to do because we, whether conservative or liberal, do not easily change our views. It’s hard for us to see things from the standpoint of another human being, especially after we’ve converted the vision of that first-truth of life into an elaborate structure of traditions, doctrines, and creeds that we must now protect, at all costs, lest it perish.  When that happens, we no longer look to the future but are locked into the past.

That’s why, as grateful as I am for all those who have done the heavy-lifting involved in re-thinking Scripture and Tradition so that I will, one day, be free to celebrate who I am in the Church of Jesus Christ, I fear, like many others, that our arguments alone are not going to change the minds of many persons. But our Humanity will because this entire issue of Marriage is about one thing — Love — our need to give it and our need to receive it. For it is in that giving and receiving, that we become One in the dance of the Trinity. And folks can’t make that move until they stop talking about us and start talking with us. As Mayor Gavin Newsom, the famed San Francisco mayor said about making change happen: “Put a human face on it. Let’s not talk about it in theory. Give me a story. Give me lives.”2

Is this the time for a personal confession?  I don’t think of my sexual orientation as my most interesting feature. While my husband and I were happily plunged into the joy of wedded bliss two years ago in Washington, DC (thanks to the hospitality of The Church of the Pilgrims and the pronouncement of Presbyterian and Episcopalian preachers), the truth is we’ve been married in our minds for more than 25 years. We only solemnized it for the fringe benefits.

Does that sound unromantic? Let me tell you about romance! Every day I’m more “vested” in my husband than I was the day before, and that’s been on a steady  line of growth for years. If our Love were listed on the NY Stock Exchange you couldn’t afford it now! But that love has gotten used to sleeping indoors at night thanks to the economic commitments we have made to one another. And marriage is one way we’re working to protect those commitments.

We didn’t need the Government or the Presbyterian Church into which we were both born to tell us we could be married. After all, we are both Protestants and Sons of the American Revolution!  We only get one life and we don’t take lightly to popes or kings telling us how to live it! It’s just not in our DNA.

And let me say this, I do not consider our marriage a gay marriage. It is simply a marriage. As a civil right in this country, marriage does not require approval by the church or any other community.  Stacy Johnson of Princeton Seminary reminded us that both Luther and Calvin insisted that the covenant of marriage was made by the two parties themselves, not the church, and that marriage should be regulated not by the church, but the civil authority. We know that from colonial days until the present, people married one another by mutual consent. Only the wealthy had an actual ceremony.3 Today, in this country marriage is open to those who can’t make babies, as well as those who can. It’s open even to those in prison who have no prospect of a Saturday afternoon delight. It’s even open to those who could care less about sex! All a marriage needs is the consent of two parties. And we are those two parties!

His name was Johann Apel. He was a student at the brand new University of Wittenburg where he met an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. Several years later, in 1519,  Apel would take holy orders, swearing to a lifetime of clerical celibacy after receiving a doctorate in canon law and civil law.

Thanks to his new job as a Cathedral canon, Apel met the love of his life, who happened to be a nun.  They saw each other secretly for weeks, carrying on a torrid romance which resulted in a pregnancy. She renounced her vows and moved in with Apel. A few weeks later they were secretly married and lived together as a couple.

Concubines were one thing in the Church (there was even a standard tax for that!)  but clerical marriage; that was an outrage!  A nun and a priest? Nothing less than double spiritual incest!

The Bishop had Apel indicted in his own bishops’ court but Apel fought back. “I have sought only to follow the dictates of conscience and the Gospel.” 4 Soon Apel had found a following.

When he published his remarks from the trial with a glowing preface by none other than Martin Luther, it was an instant best seller!

Found guilty of  several violations of canon law and  of heretically participating in “Luther’s damned teachings,”5 he was defrocked, excommunicated and evicted from the community. That’s when he joined the law faculty at Wittenberg and two years later served as one of the four witnesses to the marriage of ex-monk Martin Luther to ex-nun Katherine von Bora.

In the early days of the Reformation, such marriages occurred often. Indeed, one of the acts of solidarity with the new Protestant cause was to marry or divorce in open violation of the Church’s canon law and in open contempt of episcopal instruction.

So you see, I come by my sense of ecclesiastical rebellion quite naturally!

Likewise, my sense of Marriage is no less shaped by my understanding of the Church. St. John Chrysostom was among the first of the early church fathers to emphasize the Christ-filled marriage and family built on the words of Jesus “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” (18:20)6 He believed it was the calling of every Christian married couple to make their home a little church, full of love, unity, spiritual discernment, prayer, discipline, and care for the poor.   Of all the church fathers, he spoke the most positively about marriage.

That descriptive “ little church” has echoed throughout the centuries, most recently emphasized by the now retired Pope Benedict who said to the youth of Palermo, “the family is the “little church’ because it transmits God, it transmits the love of Christ, by the power of the sacrament of matrimony.”7

The idea of this “little church,” while it begins in the home, does not make our marriage an insular partnership but by its very calling sends us into the world. Florence Bourg writes that the idea of domestic churches “directs our attention to the ecclesial character of Christian families and, conversely, the familial character of the Church…the idea of a domestic church presupposes that religious activity is not confined to a sanctuary or a particular day of the week; rather, it incorporates the Pauline principle “Whatever you eat or drink — whatever you do — you should do all for the glory of God.”8

The Roman Church held no exclusive claims to the idea of a domestic church. Jonathan Edwards, the leader of the Great Awakening in New England, wrote in his “Farewell Sermon” after he was driven away from his pulpit, “We have had great disputes how the church ought to be regulated….but the due regulation of your families is of no less, and, in some respects, of much greater importance. Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace…if these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful.” 9

To describe the home Clark and I have made as a “church in miniature” is a wonderfully liberating insight that has changed my perspective on this whole marriage debate.   It means, first of all, that our baptisms have welcomed us into the Body of Christ and have made Clark and me brothers forever in a community that is larger than we are.  Likewise, when we commune around the table, we experience the gift of God as we literally share our bread /our lives with a much larger community of friends. In that strong bond of Christ, we are more held than holding. In that same spirit, when we pledge our love to one another til death us do part, that commitment, too, characterized by its love of goodness and virtue, is a gift from God intended to bless and to be blessed by those around us.

But what if a part of this larger community is undone by such a pledge and refuses to honor it and even trivializes it? Has our pledge been lessened in either its strength or commitment? Not a whit. Why not? Because we know that the waters of baptism and the communion of the saints have confirmed in our hearts that we are, indeed, a gifted and valued part of the Body — whether the Body actually recognizes it or not. As I used to tell my little congregation in Warm Springs, Georgia: “Friends, you need to know: either we’re going to heaven together, or we’re just not going!”

So if marriage is indeed a right we have by virtue of our mutual commitment, Clark and I have every right to then covenant together and create a little church where we can unite our lives in service to the building up of the kingdom of God and the blessing of the Church.

Why “covenant?”  David Gushee of Mercer University writes, “Covenants are God’s way of organizing, sustaining and reclaiming relationships established in creation but damaged by sin.”10 As Presbyterians, we’re no strangers to covenants. When we read our Bible we see that God uses covenants to save lives that are spinning out of control with a promise of solidarity and future.  In a culture where marriage is primarily an idea of romantic fulfillment, a covenant helps us to remember that the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the individual. It dares to establish our commitments on a solid foundation and then fences them to keep them safe and secure from all alarms.

Tim Keller of New York City’s Redeemer Church, writes, “The Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other… at its heart is a covenant that intimately unites feeling and duty, passion and promise.” 11 Or as ethicist Margaret Farley puts it, ‘for the sake of our love….we almost always commit ourselves to certain frameworks for living our love. The frameworks, then, take their whole meaning …from the love they are meant to serve.” 12

I don’t know about you, but I need a good covenant to keep me focused and off the streets. I need a covenant that will keep me raising the banner of our commitment, when I am momentarily distracted by fleeting inclinations, a covenant that will let me rest easy at night when he’s out on the road, a covenant that will keep me loving the promises I have made even when I’m exhausted or hurt or angry as I could ever be.

A Covenant takes fickle people and coerces us to keep faith. It takes the tyranny of transient affections and turns them into a bulwark of support that looks at the other and declares, “Neither one of us gets out of this marriage alive!”  Most of all, a covenant puts me in a place where I can, with confidence, delight in giving myself away to my Beloved, and cherish the joy of not only giving such love but receiving it.

It is within the shelter of that covenant-covered little church, that Clark and I learn to make room for one another, as well as other people, especially when the elephants in the room rise up suddenly and stampede the place.

Oh, you have elephants at your house?!  Yes, we all know. My husband can’t sleep without the radio or TV and I can’t sleep with them! For years he thought all was well while I martyred through. Then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s when we had a come to Jesus meeting. Solution: he turned down the volume and I bought earplugs.  Silly, I know. Truth is: most of our disagreements are not earth-shattering. They only feel that way at the time.

Think blue grass and handclapping at the 11 o’clock service or bad shag carpet in the sanctuary.

Turn it into a holy cause with some cherry picked Bible verses and suddenly you end up with hurt feelings, and sometimes that hurt wounds deeply.

As gay people we’re the last group in town expected to suffer fools gladly. When we grow up hearing repeatedly that we are some kind of grotesque cosmic error accursed by God and barred from inheriting the Kingdom of God I think it can make us all a little bit crazy. And when even our well-meaning friends want us to stay quiet and wait for our world to catch up with us, the stress of grinning and bearing it is more than we can handle. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”13 We know that to be true. And it makes me want to get even.

And that’s when victimhood sneaks up behind me and whispers in my ear, “So you really think your God can be trusted? What kind of God would allow you to be inherently gay yet refuse you any expression of that gift!”

As victims, we’re pretty sure we know the answer. Look at us, nailed to our cross of deep social injustice, broken relationships, crazed thoughts, paralyzing wounds. With no god we can trust, no wonder our pain goes shooting in every direction, spraying all over those around us. You see, victims, rarely go down alone.

And, to be honest, victimhood does have its rewards. Prove you are one and you immediately have the moral high ground.  If you want, go ahead and drop out, lay on the couch, and do nothing. Nobody’s going to blame you! After all, you’re the victim. You don’t have to grow up. You don’t have to let go .You don’t have to forgive. It is hopeless. Bless your heart, here, have a drink…hell, take the whole bottle. You deserve it.

Victimhood works pretty well in this country because we’re rich and we’ve got religion.  Both come with an abundance of judgment and guilt.  And if that weren’t enough, don’t forget we are endowed by our creator with the inalienable right to the exhausting and never-ending pursuit of our own happiness! Mix all that together and you’ve got a bloody good concoction of self-absorption!

Oh, and one more thing: to maintain that victimhood on a professional level (that is to keep things paying off) victims need scapegoats, somebody to blame; someone whom I can fault for my anxiety, my shame, my emptiness, my fear.  The disciples found them in Chief Priests and Roman occupiers.  Some of my favorites are: the Republican Party, Pat Robertson, Atlanta traffic, ECO, people who eat all day and never gain a pound, The Layman, fundamentalists in general, and, of course, God. And that’s my shortlist…..I have more.

If it weren’t for these things in my life, my job, my relationships, my family, my church, my future, my country would be so much better. But now they’re never going to change and they’re always going to ruin my day by bringing me down and keeping me from being my best self.

Some of us Church-folks love to be victims. And we love to look for someone to blame.  As a result, we’ve been kicking each other out of bed for years and using the Bible to justify every separation.

We’ve split over baptism, communion, slavery, cigarettes, the Virgin Birth, evolution, dancing, interpreting the Bible, modernism, fundamentalism, women, and our most recent unpleasantness, gay ordination and marriage.

In the past, we’ve even been known to kill over such matters, although it took us more than 350 years before we actually took the first life. His name was Prisicillian of Avila. The year was 385 CE when the adolescent church, guided by its fascination with the emerging power of apostolic succession and imperial authority, welded the ax and took off Prisicillian’s head.

What were the “errors” of this man? He was an ascetic mystic who regarded the Christian life as continual intercourse with God. His favorite idea was St. Paul’s “Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God?” (I. Cor. 6:19) and he argued that to make himself a fit habitation for God a man must hold to the faith, do works of love, renounce marriage and earthly honor, and practice a hard asceticism.  Oh, and he treated women as equals while he urged his followers to avoid meat and wine. And he also allowed for what we would now call “Charismatic praise.” For these, and other trumped up charges he and six of his followers lost their lives.

His death was not the last. In the two and a half centuries after Constantine, more than 25,000 were killed for their lack of creedal correctness. Hiliary of Poitiers, who had attended Constantine’s Nicaea Council in 325 CE and had voted on the “wrong” side, wrote afterwards from his place of forced exile: “We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.”14

A thousand years later, the Church continues to renounce, deplore and break communion with one another, having learned nothing from our history. As Tom Currie, recently retired dean of Union Presbyterian Seminary, has said, over and over again, the greatest heresy in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition is that, somewhere out there, there is a purer church.

Remember Galileo who dared to support the idea of Copernicus that all planets, including the earth, revolved around the sun? Because Copernicus had died shortly after his theory was published, the Pope threw the Bible at Galileo, proclaimed him a heretic, tortured him, and placed him under house arrest for the rest of his life.

You can blame old Ptolemy who articulated geocentricity most thoroughly back at the turn of the first century . For 1500 years Christians believed that theory because it was right there in the Bible.

History reminds us that our Protestant forbears considered Copernicus a heretic. They weren’t evil men, they just couldn’t fathom that the Bible was a book about God, not about astrology, just as good women and men today have trouble admitting that the Bible is a book about God, not about the diversity of human sexuality. Martin Luther wrote in his Table Talk: “This fellow wishes to turn the whole astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth [Joshua 10:12].”15

For Luther, since Scripture actually taught that the sun revolved around the earth, the claims of Copernicus left only two options: either this new discovery was a misinterpretation of the Scripture or else Scripture was wrong.  And Luther was not prepared to question either scripture itself or his ability to interpret that scripture.

Our own John Calvin couldn’t resist renouncing “those who pervert the order of nature.” 16 Quoting Psalm 93 in his attack on Copernicus. He wrote, “ ‘The earth also is established. It cannot be moved.’ Who then will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”17

Melanchthon, one of Luther’s closest allies, used Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 to condemn Copernicus. “The sun also rises, and the sun goes down and hurries to the place from which it came.” Then he said, “It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to obey it.”18 In other words, the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

The sad thing is that it took the Church 359 years to say “Sorry,” and to admit that church had been wrong. Unfortunately, John Paul II’s apology in 1992 came a little too late to relieve Galileo of his spiritual and physical suffering.

Remember in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:11-21) — thank God, there’s more to Paul than Romans 1 — when he described what was, apparently, a very bitter fight he was having with none other than Peter. The struggle that believers were having in Jerusalem in those early days was, basically, whether or not God loved “goys” (that’s Yiddish for Gentiles) enough to save them without requiring them to keep the Old Testament laws.  Peter, thanks to a earlier vision, had become a champion of God’s love for goys and had even convinced the guys back in Jerusalem, that goys were okay, but Peter, like many of his Jewish Christian brothers, wanted these goys to go straight — to obey the Bible — to keep all those regulatory laws Peter and his friends thought were mandatory if you were a real follower of Jesus. So Peter quit eating with his goy friends.  I guess the social pressure got to him. Maybe God did love goys but they were still….well, goys.

Paul would have none of it. And in any case, Paul wrote to the Galatians that Peter was completely wrong (“self-condemned” is how Paul described Peter) and acting in “hypocrisy” in a way that others were being “led astray” concerning the “very truth of the gospel.”

Those were some serious accusations Paul leveled against Peter. Leading people astray from the very truth of the Gospel? Wow!

So who should have been denied leadership in the church? Peter or Paul? Who should have been kicked out on their ear?

Of course, you know the answer. Neither one. Both were people of faith. Most of us today, based on the wisdom of hindsight, would simply say that Peter was wrong.

Now all this makes me wonder: if Peter and Paul could disagree so passionately about something that Paul considered a threat to “the very truth of the gospel” and if today we can celebrate both of them as apostles of Christ and heroes of the faith, why can’t we make room for those with whom we differ? If we have a Christ whose very presence will not let any barrier stand between “them” and “us,” why can’t we dwell together in this Beloved Community?

But wait! There’s more! When famine hits the Christian community in Jerusalem, here is Paul out in the hinterlands of the goy world raising money for hungry folks back in town who, you have to believe, included many who disagreed passionately with Paul on this matter.  Think about it: Paul is asking these churches to feed the hypocrites back in Jerusalem who would have refused to eat with their goy supporters if they had come to town.

Paul knew that it’s only when the Church is willing to repress their nausea and break bread with one another that we have anything of value to say to the world. Friends, if we can’t bring ourselves to sit at the table with each other, then our vocation as the Body of Christ in the world is in serious jeopardy.

I remember two lifelong friends and Columbia Seminary professors, Shirley Guthrie and Ben Kline, both dead now, who were engaged in yet another of their dynamic classroom discussions. As the conversation turned heated, Ben said to Shirley, “Shirley Guthrie, you know that is nothing but heresy! To which Dr. Guthrie replied, “Perhaps, Ben, but my heresy is better than your heresy!”

You know when we offer one another the peace of Christ, we don’t say “peace be with you as long as you agree with me.” We just put it out there and trust the Spirit of God to do the rest.

If an old violent, religious fanatic like Paul who, at one point in his life, hunted down Christians to kill them, for God’s sake, could end up summarizing the Bible in five words: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5:14), then, thanks be to God, you and I have a chance to lay down our hate and pick up our love and keep picking it up again and again and again until God’s will is being done on earth even as it is in heaven.

Remember when Huck Finn decides that the “plain hand of Providence” had required him to tell Miss Watson where her runaway slave, Jim, was hiding? In his letter of betrayal to her, Huck wrote that he was feeling “all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felts in my life….” For awhile he sat thinking “how good it was all this happened so, and how near I came to being lost and going to hell.” Then young Huck began to think about Jim and the rush of the great river and the talking and the singing and the laughing and the friendship. “Then I happened to look around and see that paper. I took it up and held it in my hand. I was a’trembling because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things and I knowed it. I studied a minute, a sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, ‘All right, then I’ll go to hell’ — and tore it up.”19

Just think….what if Luther and Calvin could have said to Copernicus, “We think what you’re saying not only goes against the Created Order, but is way off base both biblically and traditionally. However, we honor your confession of faith and look forward to sharing our lives with you as a brother in Christ.”

Imagine the suffering that could have been avoided then and the suffering that could be avoided now in the church and the world if we could simply make room for one another.

Friends, that’s the kind of Love you and I can bring to the Table today.  I am convinced that Love is the only viable antidote to all the parsing of texts, the complementarian theology and “faulty” hermeneutics that are out there in the Church today.  Why Love? Because Love alone is the one power that can take all our gifts and insights, all our opinions and beliefs, and harness their tendencies to become arrogant and separatist when left to their own devices. Love alone is the one gift that compels us to swallow our pride (or our hurt) and realize that none of us have “arrived” spiritually. Love alone frees us to bless the Church and the World without the need to always be right.

Our fractured Church NEEDS our love today. Oh, I know, what could a group of wounded, marginalized, non-traditional families like ours possibly offer the Church? The author Peter Manseau  in a recent article in the New York Times, where  he focused on the evolving idea of family within the Roman Catholic Church, wrote, “What family is not wounded? (For Catholics) the holy family….is a depiction of a woman who conceived a child before she was married, a chaste stepfather who nearly divorced her as a result, and that original sign of contradiction, the human son of God. A Church that claims to descend from this most untraditional of domestic arrangements might ask itself: Was any family ever more irregular than that?”20

Our Church Family needs us and our marriage relationships to help them learn how to tell the truth to one another even as we continue to make room for one another; that is, to simply love one another, especially in the midst of our disagreements, even when it would cost us dearly. I’m not saying that we should be expected to submit our lives to the injustice of an abusive church or spouse.  Instead, with feet firmly planted, we must, in the spirit of the prophets and patriarchs of old, shout out to our Church, “Heneni!” “Here I am! At your service!” assured of our place at the Lord’s Table through our baptism, fortified by the Love God has planted within us, and confident that we shall not be moved!

And just think, as a follower of Christ Jesus, you’ve already got a head-start!  All you have to do is to keep letting God’s imaginative ways loose through your little domestic churches every chance you get. And, oh, yes, I guarantee you the results will create quite a stir. Some folks will think you’ve gone off the deep end while others will want to know what’s going on with you. That’s when you can look at them with a big smile and say, “I’m not sure but lately I’ve felt the need to take everybody to lunch.” Care to join me?

The Rev. Larry Owens, a member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, is Director of Annual Giving for Presbyterian Homes of Georgia Inc.



  1. As quoted in a talk by James Alison “Unbinding the Gay Conscience.” London Coley, 26-28 July, 2002.
  2. Chris Taylor, “I Do,… No You Don’t!” Time, March 1, 2004.
  3. William Stacy Johnson, A Time to Embrace: Same-Sex Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006) p.198.
  4. John Witte, “The Perils of Celibacy.” Keesler Reformation Lecture, Candler School of Theology, October 22, 2002.
  5. John Witte, ibid.
  6. A quote from Pope Benedict XVI, reported in Highlights, Zenit News Agency, 10/5/2010.
  7. David C. Ford, “The Home as a Little Church,” from a presentation he made at the parish of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church near House Springs, Missouri, September 29, 2007.
  8. Florence Caffrey Bourg, Where Two or Three Are Gathered: Christian Families as Domestic Churches. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981). p.146.
  9. From the “Farewell Sermon,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, p.ccvi.
  10. David Gushee, “Who Needs A Covenant?” (The Center for Christian Ethics, 2006) p.11.
  11. Tim Keller, from The Gospel Project Blog (on-line) October 27, 2013.
  12. Margaret A. Farley, Personal Commitments: Beginning, Keeping, Changing  (New York: HarperCollins, 1990) p.124
  13. Dr. Martin Luther King, Strength to Love, 1963.
  14. Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith (New York:HarperCollins, 2010) p.46.
  15. ed. Helmut T. Lehman, from Luthers Works, Vol. 54( Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967) pp.358-359.
  16. John Calvin, Commentary on Jeremiah 10:1-2 as quoted in Belden C. Lane,” Spirituality as the Performance of Desire: Calvin on the World as a Theater of God’s Glory,” an article in Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality (2001) p.13.
  17. John Calvin as cited in John H. Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Oxford, Oxford University Press), 1991) p.96.
  18. Allen G. Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1978) p.98.
  19.  Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 31, paragraph 25.
  20. Peter Manseau, “What is a Catholic Family?” (New York Times, October 18, 2014).


  1. Thank you for this article. A minor point, David Gushee is with Mercer University, not Mercy University (though we can always do with more mercy). [[Note: We have made the correction. Thank you!]]

    Last month (October 2014), Dr. Gushee published “Changing Our Mind: A call from America’s leading evangelical ethics scholar for full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church.” In part, the book stems from a series of posts/articles in Baptist New over the past months. In one of those postings, Dr. Gushee addresses covenantel standards for every Christian’s sexual ethics (

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