The Episcopal Church will now allow priests to conduct services blessing same-sex relationships. The denomination’s House of Bishops approved the policy Monday, and delegates to the national convention approved the measure on Tuesday becoming the largest U.S. religious denomination to approve such a ritual.
What’s your response?
Is this an appropriate theological response? Is this a good compromise?”
Regarding same-sex couples, the Episcopal Church proposes one kind of “blessing.” I’ll label it the “God Bless You” blessing. It is a blessing with a long and strong history. For example, the book of Psalms is filled with it. The author of Psalm 128 shouts, “The Lord bless you!” The author of Ps. 67 prays, “May God bless us.”
The “God Bless You” brand of blessing calls for God to show favor upon someone as a reward for something that person has done. For example, Ps. 1 promises that if a person “walks not in the counsel of the wicked” he will be “blessed.” The “God Bless You” formula is this: right behavior leads to right blessing. Do the correct thing and God will bless you. The Episcopal Church thus advises that because a same-sex couple has done the right thing (committed to a monogamous relationship) they ought to be blessed.
While a committed and monogamous relationship is a good step in the right direction (away from sexual relationships with multiple partners) I do not believe Scripture permits the church to offer the “God Bless You” blessing to same-sex couples. My reading of the Bible still leads me to the conviction that God intended sexual relationships to exist solely between a male and a female who are in a committed and monogamous relationship. We cannot offer the “God Bless You” blessing to same-sex couples because they’ve not yet done the right thing worthy of that kind of blessing.
We can, however, offer another type of blessing. This is a blessing too long withheld by Christians. What the church should unleash unreservedly might be called the “God Blessed You” blessing.
Jesus liberally granted this blessing at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. Known as the Beatitudes, the starting statements of Jesus’ Sermon are announcements of blessing: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek,” etc. Jesus is looking at the rabble and the rejects gathered near and saying, “God has blessed you! Not because of anything you’ve done, but simply because of who you are—his creation, his image, his children. God has blessed you!” Only after Jesus pronounces this blessing does he move on in the Sermon to discuss what it means to live rightly with others and with God.
Remarkably, Jesus changes the formula. He does not say “God bless you because you’ve done the right thing.” He says, “God blessed you, therefore do the right thing.” Before Jesus ever calls his listeners to love their enemies, pray for God’s will to be done, or live out the Golden Rule, he tells them they are blessed. The “God Blessed You” formula is this: right blessing leads to right behavior. Accept and embrace the fact that God loves you because of who you are and not because of what you’ve done, and you’ll find the motivation to live as God desires.
And when the church holds up “God hates fags” signs or “Gays must turn or burn” signs they withhold this critical blessing. When the church shuns same-sex couples from worship services they hand out curses rather than this important blessing. How about holding up “God loves homosexuals” signs? How about marching with placards that say “God adores same-sex couples”? How about reminding gay and straight communities that God “so loved” the world—that world filled with homosexuals, lesbians and others—that he gave his one and only Son.
It’s not “God bless you for living rightly.” It’s “God blessed you, so live rightly.” This is the good news the whole world needs to hear.