Defending Marriage

Recently, the Church of England approved blessings for gay couples. The three voting houses of bishops, clergy and laity voted on the proposal in an all-church body known as Synod. In a joint statement by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, “For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.” Separately, Cottrell added that same-sex couples “could now come to church and have that relationship acknowledged, celebrated and the couple receive a blessing.”

Such language is confusing as a clause was inserted into the blessings motion “not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage” and “should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure” from this doctrine—namely that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

Archbishop Angaelos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, told Synod: “I am very aware of the difference between a blessing and Holy Matrimony… but that distinction will not be readily understood by many around the world. The distinction will sound like a mere technicality.”

Yep, it sure will.

And it will also sound like heresy.

How can you simultaneously celebrate and bless a marriage in the name of God while maintaining that it is not, in fact, a biblical marriage that God would endorse? That isn’t just doublespeak. That is a form of blasphemy. You can only bless what God has affirmed should be blessed, and only celebrate what God has affirmed should be celebrated. Homoerotic activity, much less gay marriage, is morally wrong. That may not be a cultural truth, but it is a biblical truth. 

To be clear, this is not about the loving acceptance of gay men and women, married or not. Christians should exhibit love and acceptance toward all people, and churches should welcome anyone who wishes to explore the Christian faith. 

But acceptance is vastly different than affirmation. 

Following the decision, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which claims to represent 75% of Anglicans worldwide, planned to meet to “take decisive steps towards re-setting the Anglican communion.” This will include official advice for churches to split and survive without Church of England funds. So, it would appear that the Anglican communion, like the United Methodist Church, will soon separate into conservative and liberal groupings. 

Such divides grieve the Holy Spirit, but not because of the divide—but because of what forced it. And this is forced. The decision of the Church of England leaves other Anglican communions, such as the GSFA, with little choice. 

It takes courage to stand with Scripture in a culture hostile to its moral compass. Sometimes it takes even more courage to stand up to your own religious peers when they are the ones capitulating to that culture. So, I would remind my brothers and sisters in the GSFA to stand firm, as well as bring to mind the words of someone who also had to take a stand against his peers. Standing before the Diet of Worms, when asked to recant his ideas fueling the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther made his convictions clear:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. Amen.

And that is our call. Not to have our consciences captive to the world,

… but to the Word.

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

James Emery White
James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, ‘Hybrid Church:Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age,’ is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.