Evangelicals, Divorce and Same-Sex “Marriage”

Greg Strand – July 2, 2014 2 Comments

With the changing cultural landscape regarding homosexuality and same-sex “marriage,” many mainline denominations have progressively (defined by culture) followed suit and approved same-sex “marriages” and homosexual and same-sex “married” persons. Evangelicals have remained tethered to the Text and affirmed the notion of “welcoming but not affirming.”

Is this a throw-back to tradition and only a matter of time before Evangelicals, too, wake up to the “right” interpretation of Scripture? Or can Evangelicals allow a third way, and simply co-exist by agreeing to disagree? Is this a moral matter that allows that?

To state this at the outset, I do not believe the Evangelical belief and response is based only in tradition or that it is a moral matter in which we can agree to disagree. It is a biblical matter that will require much convictional kindness and pastoral wisdom and sensitively to stand firmly and to walk toward others lovingly.

Ed Stetzer recently interviewed Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, national correspondent at Religion News Service, and Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, about evangelicalism, the culture and issues impacting the church. One of those issues raised was same-sex “marriage.” During the conversation Ed asked this question:

Will evangelicals eventually agree to disagree on the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, much like evangelicals have agreed to disagree on women’s ordination, the exercise of spiritual gifts, how to handle divorce, and other contentious issues?

 Though it might be weighted since he was personally involved, Wax summarized each person’s approach to this question like this:

 Sarah comes at this question with her reporter’s hat on (although her infamous hats are conspicuously absent in this video!). She analyzes it from a journalistic perspective.

 Jonathan comes at this question by drawing on his own experience and his relationships with evangelical leaders. He sees this issue as far from settled and wonders out loud about how evangelicals will address the issue.

 I come at this question by putting it in context of global evangelicalism, the authority of Scripture, and the history of church controversy throughout the centuries.

As Merritt thinks out loud of this possible future (at about minute 38 of the interview), he wonders if once the dust settles Evangelicals will eventually respond to gay “marriage” in a similar what they have responded to divorce. Though theologically it will be considered a sin, pragmatically it will not be a moral matter to which members will be held accountable.

Three important questions for us:

  • How do you think, ponder and process the biblical teaching of divorce and then develop policy in the church that reflects that teaching, and how do you, then, pastorally apply it in lives of people?
  • How do you think, ponder and process the biblical teaching of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage and then develop policy in the church that reflects that teaching, and how do you, then, pastorally apply it in lives of people?
  • How would you answer this question posed by Stetzer?


Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Evangelicals, Divorce and Same-Sex “Marriage”

  1. Hey Greg,

    Coming from this from personal experience, this is something that I would expect my church to hold me to account for if I ever slipped up.

    And while there’s grace and repentance for that, I think we need to be clear about the truth on this issue while being loving.

    I spent a couple years outside the Church before coming back to it, when I came back there was a need for me to accept the truth and commit to celibacy.

    I thought the Statement Issued by the Spiritual Heritage Committee last year had some helpful guidelines on how to address this issue.

    If I recall it posed a series of scenarios and policy questions on this. Perhaps its an area for local EFCA Churches to explore?

    As for other areas like divorce in my past experience I’ve felt like homosexuality in some churches (not all) has been made the “number one” sin while divorce gets ignored.

    It would be great if churches could be able to handle all sexual sin or an issue like divorce on par with other sins like homosexuality.

    With the truth and love.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful interaction, Michael. This is what the SHC attempted to do in the Statement on Human Sexuality – to address morality and sexual sin as the broad category and then address specific ways that manifests in the lives of people. Sin is sin and it must not be excused. But with repentance comes forgiveness. The Bible does not identify any sin as unforgivable apart from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. And neither must the church. But neither must the church excuse sin because a certain sin has become culturally acceptable. We continue to stand on the inerrant and authoritative Word of God as we stumble toward maturity in Christ by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

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