Where Christian churches, other religions stand on gay marriage


Graphic from the Pew Research Center

By David Masci, Pew Research Center

The Presbyterian Church (USA) joined other religious groups Tuesday in a vote that formally sanctions same-sex marriage. The 1.7 million-member church voted to amend its constitution to allow gay marriage ceremonies, a move widely anticipated after a step the church took last summer to allow its clergy to marry same-sex couples.

The debate within the church has already led some congregations to break away and join other, more conservative Presbyterian denominations, and the vote could prompt even more defections. At the same time, the church’s decision could influence other centrist and liberal mainline Protestant churches that have grappled with the issue but have not formally agreed to allow same-sex unions.

In the past two decades, several other religious groups have moved to allow same-sex couples to marry within their traditions. This includes the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

At the same time, many of the largest religious institutions have remained firmly against allowing same-sex marriage, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish movement and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical Protestant denominations. (Pew Research Center has published a fact sheet on religious groups’ positions on same-sex marriage.)

Among the four largest mainline Protestant churches, the same-sex marriage debate has not been so simple. The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church of America, which opposes same-sex marriage) have wrestled with the issue for years, often as part of a larger debate on the role of gays and lesbians in the church.


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Some churches say they’ll cut ties to Boy Scouts following its lifting ban on gay Scouts

scoutsBy Christina Ng

A number of churches that previously sponsored Boy Scout troops have said they plan to sever ties to the organization following its decision to lift a longtime national ban on admitting openly gay Scouts. Openly gay adults will still be barred from leadership roles in the organization.

“I think I can say with pretty strong accuracy that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are very disappointed in the latest change in policy … deeply disappointed,” Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, told

Page said that the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant denomination in the United States — would be holding its national meeting in two weeks, after which it would likely recommend that its 47,000 U.S. churches pull away from the Boy Scouts of America. From there, it is up to each individual church to decide what to do, said Page.

About 70 percent of all local Boy Scout troops are supported by religious groups, according to the Boy Scouts of America, and the Southern Baptist Convention currently sponsors “hundreds of troops, probably thousands,” Page said.

“We don’t hate people,” said Page. “We don’t hate anybody, but we just felt like there’s got to be some objective standard, and we felt they were maintaining that until recently.”

The Mormon church, which sponsors most of the troops, has endorsed allowing gay Scouts. The Roman Catholic Church, the second-largest troop sponsor, has said it was going to use the time before the new policy takes effect on Jan. 1 to think about how and if it would affect the church.


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At inaugural Mass, Pope Francis calls for defending environment, poor

PopeBy Allesandro Speciale

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis issued a powerful call for the protection of the environment and of society’s most vulnerable during his formal installation Mass at the Vatican, while qualifying his papal power as a “service” to the church and to humanity.

The pope on Tuesday (March 19) celebrated a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square in front of an estimated 200,000 people, as well as political and religious leaders from all over the world.

During the Mass, Francis received the symbols of his papal authority over the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics: the pallium, a lamb’s wool stole that recalls Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and the “ring of the fisherman.”

In keeping with the low-key style that has been the hallmark of his pontificate so far, Francis presided over a somewhat simpler, and definitely shorter, rite than the one that marked the start of Benedict XVI’s reign in 2005.

Read more at Religious News Service.

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World Evangelical Alliance congratulates Pope Francis

FrancisBy Alex Murashko

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) congratulated Pope Francis for being elected the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church and said it hopes to continue positive dialogue together.

The Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of WEA, which represents more than 600 million evangelical Christians, extended his “warmest congratulations” to the newly elected Pope and affirmed his prayers for the new leader, who will head the Catholic Church “at a time filled with great challenges but also a time of great possibilities…,” in a statement released Thursday.

“We look forward to building on some of the good work we have done together in the past, such as the collaboration for the document Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct,” said Tunnicliffe.

“We live at a time of grave challenges for all Christian communities. Therefore, the need to find common ground for conversation and action in this world are fundamental if we are to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and his kingdom on earth,” he said.

In the statement, the WEA recognizes the various differences between Roman Catholics and evangelicals around the world, and expressed its hope “that fruitful conversations with the Catholic Church will continue.”

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Bergoglio: A pope of paradox for a church in transition

New popeBy David Gibson

VATICAN CITY – A hierarchy looking to make a clear statement about where the troubled church is headed chose on Wednesday (March 13) the first member of the influential Jesuit order to be the next pope. Yet they also chose Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a humble man who lives simply and took the name Francis (also a first) that evokes the founder of another great religious order.

The College of Cardinals picked the first non-European in modern times, as well – yet he is the son of Italian immigrants and grew up in Argentina, perhaps the most European of any country in Latin America.

And the cardinals above all wanted a pastoral figure who would project an image of vigor and warmth to the world after the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI — an introverted, gaffe-prone German theologian who was 78 when he was elected and retired last month at 85, saddled by the burdens of this very public office.

Yet in his stead they chose a soft-spoken 76-year-old who has been rapped for rarely cracking a smile — an image that Bergoglio did little to dispel with his low-key introduction as Pope Francis to the expectant crowd in St. Peter’s Square on a rainy Roman evening.

“Buona sera,” Francis said in deliberate, word perfect Italian, with just a slight Spanish accent. “You all know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals have come almost to the ends of the earth to get him … but here we are.”

So what, in fact, does the election of Francis say about the Catholic Church at this point in its history?

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Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio elected as Pope Francis

PopeBy Nicole Winfield

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

A stunned-looking Bergoglio shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square, marveling that the cardinals had had to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.

He asked for prayers for himself, and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose stunning resignation paved the way for the tumultuous conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. The cardinal electors overcame deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.

Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Benedict – who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years.


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Cardinals begin process of choosing new pope

By John Waage

CardinalsThe Roman Catholic cardinals who will elect a new pope to succeed Benedict XVI are arriving at the Vatican and have held their first meeting since the pope officially left office on Friday.

Benedict became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign rather than die in office. One 21st Century reflection of the change is the papal Twitter page, where Benedict’s picture has been deleted and his tweets moved to another area of the website.

Monday’s meeting of the cardinals opened in prayer, and each cardinal took an oath of secrecy, pledging to keep quiet about matters related to the election of the next pope.

The cardinals have not yet set a date for the election because some of the 115 cardinals who will vote have not yet arrived in Rome.



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Pope Benedict defends choice to resign in last public address


By Allesandro Speciale

PopeVATICAN CITY – In his final public address, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday (Feb. 27) forcefully defended his decision to resign while trying to reassure Catholics still reeling from the shock of his unprecedented move.

For the first time since his stunning announcement on Feb. 11, the 85-year old pope explained at length his decision to become the first pope in six centuries to resign. His tenure officially ends Thursday at 8 p.m. local time.

Benedict admitted that his resignation is a “grave” and “novel” act but, he added, his choice had been made “with profound serenity.”

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