Gay marriage & the Godbeat

During the weekend and in the first few days of civil-marriage ceremonies for gay couples, the best coverage of the religion angle has come in sidebar stories. In mainbar stories, Christians who oppose gay unions make cameos like these in a Washington Post story:

Not far away, at Boston's city hall, protesters knelt in prayer -- and in protest -- to mark the landmark moment.

Thomas Schem, 45, of New Bedford, Mass., said he had come to Boston to object because "as a former homosexual I may understand their feelings a bit more but I also know that it is wrong."

He held a banner saying: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We Pray You Keep the Family Holy."

The Boston Globe sent Colin Nickerson to St. Louis to gain a reading from the Heartland. His atmospheric lede sounded similar to the provincialist dictum dispensed in The Life of David Gale that "You know you are in the Bible belt when there are more churches than Starbucks":

ST. LOUIS -- In the American heartland, where billboards reading "Jesus Saves" loom beside highways and where many people proudly count themselves as Christian conservatives, the communities of gays and lesbians are awaiting the dawn of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts with a mixture of elation and apprehension.

David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times gathered come coffee-hour chatter that would make many movement conservatives queasy. Here is Peter Grasso, a member of Trinity Evangelical Church near Boston:

"This used to be the most moral state in the union. You couldn't even have a dirty picture in the state until the liberals got into it."

"Until they can prove that two men or two women can have children," Mr. Grasso added, "to me it is not marriage. It is filth."

But Kirkpatrick also quoted the Rev. Kristian Mineau, an assistant minister at the church who will interrupt his usual ministry to become the acting president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. Mineau expressed the calmer views of an activist who has spent time in the trenches:

"It is a cultural war, and tragically there are those on both sides of the issue that have very hostile and militant attitudes," Mr. Mineau said. "I am concerned about some of the groups -- the antigay groups, the homophobic groups -- that discredit who we are. We want there to be a positive backlash, that people will work through the legislative process."

The most intriguing report, however, was by the Post's Alan Cooperman, who captured the Twilight Zone environment in which three bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts favor civil marriage for gays but forbid their clergy to participate in any gay-marriage ceremony.

Both the bishops and some of their priests describe this situation as showing sensitivity to Anglicans throughout the world who are pleading with the Episcopal Church to reverse its General Convention decisions that accepted an openly gay bishop and approved local option for blessings of gay unions. Cooperman quoted Cathy George, a priest in the Boston suburb of Lincoln: "The diocese of Massachusetts is trying to walk a very fine line between supporting the Supreme Judicial Court ruling and trying not to act in isolation from the larger Anglican Communion by going against the doctrines of the church."

More surprising is Cooperman's reporting that if Thomas Shaw, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, "does not enforce church laws that define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, other bishops could bring charges against him."

Conservative bishops could file such charges, just as they charged retired Bishop Walter Righter with violating church doctrine by ordaining a noncelibate gay man as a deacon. But considering the public-relations disaster of that case, and the court's exoneration of Righter, few conservatives who know their history would expect charges against Shaw to achieve traction.

"I am not aware of any bishops discussing actions against Bishop Shaw and I have also asked around our ranks. That certainly doesn't mean there is nothing to this, but I haven't heard it," said Cynthia Brust, director of communications for the American Anglican Council, in response to an email inquiry from GetReligion.

Please respect our Commenting Policy