Pauw Wows with ‘It’s time’ to support marriage equality

Amy Pauw speaks during the Covenant Network’s Marriage Matters conference in Chicago, Ill.

Editor’s note: The Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), the publisher of The Layman and The Layman Online, does not support same-sex marriage. Instead, the PLC “believes with Scripture that God ordained the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman in the very order of creation and that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, blessed and sanctified this relationship. The article here was posted as a news story about the Covenant Network’s 2013 conference on “Marriage Matters.”


CHICAGO, Ill. – When asked, “why should Christians support marriage equality?,” Amy Planting Pauw says, “Because it’s time.”

Speaking to the Covenant Network of Presbyterians “Marriage Matters” national event at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill., Pauw acknowledged that although she doesn’t teach about marriage in her role as professor of doctrinal theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, “Here I am because it’s time that I give public support to my LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] brothers and sisters who believe in marriage;” it’s time “I think theologically about” it and “it’s time that I acknowledge my queer colleagues in history and theology.” She also believes “it’s time that I help my church, the PCUSA, think about marriage in a way that aligns with our ordination standards.”

Pauw said that “marriage has always been a work in progress for Christians” and “happy marriages can take many forms, but there is no static blueprint for marriage dictated by gender.”

Dismissing both the arguments for natural marriage that appeal to the complementary reality of male/female creation and the unique ability of male/female couples to procreate, Pauw said that whereas “biological procreation was critical” to earlier cultures, they “are all ways of thinking about sexuality and marriage that are no longer considered normative today.”

Pauw, whose teaching includes Christology, ecclesiology, feminist and womanist ethics described Jesus as the character “at the center of the New Testament,” noted that He was unmarried and that “according to Jesus marriage belongs to this age, not the age to come.”


The house of straight is out of order

Pointing to the rate of divorce among heterosexuals, Pauw said, “We can’t pretend that all is in order in the house of straight.”

The marriage debate in church and culture, said Pauw, “is not a matter of the straight majority inviting LGBT people into a healthy well-functioning institution.”  Rather, Pauw said, it is a matter of rethinking marriage entirely.

Pauw asked, “What does a healthy marriage look like? It’s time we all think this thing through.”

She noted that “when it comes to marriage equality the church has a big image problem.” She said the perception is that “the church is actively pursuing the denial of rights and benefits to others that it enjoys itself.”

That “sends a terrible message to those outside the church and even a worse message to LGBT people inside the church,” Pauw concluded.


Improvisation over time

Making the argument for same-sex marriage Pauw said that:

Members of the audience listen to Amy Pauw speak at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill.


  • Reformed Christians have not seen marriage as a sacrament
  • It is not an anticipation of our eschatological union with God
  • It is one of many examples of covenant relationships
  • It is an earthly ordinance that aims at the creative flourishing of earthly life

That “creative flourishing,” Pauw contended allows for roles to be improvised over time, “not defined as one spouse ruling over the other but the peace of Christ ruling in both hearts.”


Fruitful marriage

As a mother of three, Pauw affirmed that “fruitfulness in heterosexual marriage, understood as biological procreation — fill the earth and subdue it — is a wonderful thing.” Then she asked, “but is that the only way marriage can be fruitful?”

Naming a litany of her peers in the world of theological education who argue for the inherent procreative nature of marriage, Pauw disagreed with them all, declaring that “the capacity for biological procreation is not the defining attribute of marriage.” She says that is “too narrow and confining for all couples — placing a stigma on infertility and childlessness.” She then challenged, “Are marriages that fail to produce children not marriages?”

She said we need a “broader Christian understanding of fruitfulness” that she describes as “a vision of fruitfulness that all Christians can aim for regardless of marital status.”

Pauw believed that the “strange arithmetic of marriage: 1+1=2 holds true” for couples regardless of their genders as long as their “love for each other creates space for more love to flourish.”

“How silly to think that this multiplying is the purview of straight Christians,” Pauw declared.

Pauw conceded that “certainly woman/man companionship is central to human story” but saw it as a foundational principle not a boundary.

She said, that “Genesis describes an order in which a generative relationship between man and woman plays a central role … but not to the exclusion of other kinds of relationships.”


covnetlogoMarriage matters, but not ultimately

Pauw said that although “a good marriage can serve as an intensive curriculum in loving our neighbor” and is, therefore, “like other earthly ordinances, marriage can be a school of discipleship,” she made the point that marriage “is not essential to Christian life.”

Pauw acknowledged that while marriage may be “a pillar of the earthly city, it’s not where we’re headed.” She pointed out that it is not marriage that “ultimately defines us” but our “communion with God.”


Comments 11

  • I think the article is very helpful for people,it has solved my problem,thanks!

  • […] Seminary professor Amy Plantinga Pauw denied that the Bible has clear and consistent teachings on marriage. Pauw rejected any linkage between […]

  • I suppose all things that are accepted socially should be accepted by the church. What does this teach the ‘children’ of God?
    As Christians we are suppose to be right and wrong, and try to live that way. We are not suppose to define right and wrong to suite our circumstances when it does’t fit the text of the most Holy thing we all own.
    As a Christian it is important that I take the stand on the truth and love the one who asks about the truth. Even gay friends that I’ve know as well as heterosexuals friends respect me for that.
    It is time alright. It’s time we sought the Glory of God in His truth and love. Or we can just be some social club in Pilate’s Court screaming “What is truth.” It is time, time to occupy our church and believe in the Truth of God.

  • We in the PCUSA are sinking faster and faster into Hell – apostasy, eisogesis, heresy and blasphemy all at once…what seminary do these wacked-out profs go to to learn this stuff? Oh, OUR PCUSA seminaries….

  • “Dismissing both the arguments for natural marriage that appeal to the complementary reality of male/female creation and the unique ability of male/female couples to procreate, Pauw said that whereas “biological procreation was critical” to earlier cultures, they “are all ways of thinking about sexuality and marriage that are no longer considered normative today.””

    So biological procreation is no longer critical? Also, one would think that in an age of abortion, rampant out of wedlock births, divorces, dysfunctional families, and all of the social ills that they entail, that those in the “church” would look for ways to strengthen traditional marriage instead of putting it out there as just one choice on the menu of sexual gratification and lifestyle. This is all part of the statist agenda to destroy the family and accrue more power to themselves. I can understand a humanist expressing such beliefs, but a Christian? Machen was right, it is a different religion.

  • In the old ’60s TV series “Batman”, the title character referred to a villain’s girlfriend as a “poor, deluded child”. It was meant as a humorous line. But it’s a good description of Ms. Pauw. She means well; her intentions are good. But, like so many others, she has been deluded, led away from the truth. And that’s not humorous, but very sad.

    • I don’t think her intentions, and the ones of those like her, are good. I saw plenty of this kind of stuff in the UCC before we left it. We want to believe that these folks mean well, and are just misguided, but I fear that is not the case. “True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism, they cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within.” Saul Alinsky

  • We love and welcome all people into membership, but clearly we do not affirm all behavior. We love those who commit adultery, but we do not affirm adultery. Fruitfulness is not the question. Obedience to the holy scripture is the issue. Will we now embrace relationships between adult mothers and sons, adult fathers and daughters, adult brothers and sisters? Where do we get these prohibitions? We find them in holy scripture and God gave them to us for a reason, to give us boundaries which protect us.

  • I disagree with you marriage is between one man and one woman. God ordained it that way. This professor needs to have her credentials taken away by the church there is no *equality* accept with one man and one woman. THAT’S THAT!

  • Thank goodness for someone with common sense about the negative aspects of “boundaries”. Now maybe we can legalize plural marriages. In fact, the Bible doesn’t set the age of 18 as a legal age of adulthood. So, since Mary was just 14, why not just eliminate this earthly boundary of age, and allow “true love” to flourish, regardless of age. Then perhaps, relieve overcrowded prisons by releasing those imprisoned for “loving” minors.

    Actually, the above is a facetious rant, and I am actually going pray for that God will have mercy on this misguided seminary professor and mother. I wish she could understand what’s in her future according to James 3:1.

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