Arguments for Equality of Marriage
of Baptism and Communion form the basis of Christian life. From
these two primary sacraments derive the five other rites traditionally
ascribed as sacraments. Three of these – confirmation, marriage,
and ordination – are rites of commitment that derive from the
primary Christian covenant of Baptism. Confirmation is the time
at which God blesses the adult ratification of the baptismal
covenant. Marriage is the time at which God adds a special blessing
to persons who wish to work the rest of their lives together
fulfilling their baptismal covenant. Ordination is the time
at which God adds a special blessing to persons wishing to serve
in the diaconal, priestly, and Episcopal functions of the Church.
is no other logical basis by which marriage can be called a
sacrament. Although marriage may serve a number of other functions,
including companionship and child raising, these functions cannot
raise it to sacramental status. That status is achieved only
by its relationship to Baptism. It is closely akin to ordination,
in that God unites married people together for the purpose of
joint ministry in the Kingdom. Although we disagree with the
conclusion, it is clear to see that this is the underlying theological
basis for the Roman Catholic Church’s prohibition of any one
person being both ordained and married.
is and always has been open to all people. It is God’s free
gift, not our human action. Infants, adults, males, females,
gays, straights, etc., are baptized. It is because of our Baptism
– and only because of it – that we are sacramentally qualified
to receive the graces of marriage and ordination. This is not
to say that everyone is emotionally ready to be married or intellectually
ready to be ordained (or vice versa!). But it does mean that
Baptism is the spiritual grace that makes marriage or ordination
as a sacrament technically has nothing to do with sex. It is
not about sexual intimacy and it is not about procreation. It
is about ministry. We believe that sexual intimacy is an important
part of the bond that makes the married people good teammates.
We believe that a stable marriage is the most appropriate environment
in which to raise children. But these things are neither the
core purpose nor requirements of marriage.
limit marriage to any sexual subset of the population is not
consistent with this sacramental view. The dynamics of male-male
and female-female partnerships are essentially equivalent to
those of male-female partnerships. In all such cases, the magic
lies in the balance that the individuals provide for each other.
The result is "greater than the sum of the parts."
This is why God blesses marriage. Through it God can make servant
teams that are more powerful than the individual players would
be by themselves.
lesbian, and heterosexual marriages are, therefore, exactly
equivalent in the eyes of God and should be so equivalent in
the eyes of both the Church and the state. To argue that marriage
must be restricted to male-female couples destroys the essential
nature of the sacrament. It reduces this gracious act of God
to something merely physical or biological. It restricts the
sacraments of Christ and hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.
We know and have seen the Holy Spirit work in marriages of all
Ecumenical Catholic Church has held these doctrines since its
founding in 1987. It has conducted many gay and lesbian marriages,
and uses exactly the same liturgy for them as for heterosexual
marriages. There simply is no distinction at a sacramental level,
and gender is considered to be totally irrelevant as far as
the sacramental aspect of the relationship is concerned.
laws which arbitrarily sanction some sacramental actions and
not others infringe upon our religious freedom and the freedom
of our members. For this reason, we have always stood for the
equalization of marriage laws. If the state is to grant special
privileges to some of the persons who participate in a sacrament
because of that participation (i.e., those married in heterosexual
marriages) then it must indiscriminately grant those privileges
to all who participate in that sacrament.
this end we call the state to let the various denominations
determine their own qualifications for marriage and to recognize
all those marriages. Certainly there are people who qualify
for marriage in other religious institutions that would not
so qualify in the Ecumenical Catholic Church (we have baptismal
and premarital counseling requirements). Likewise, we do not
expect all of our people to be accepted as marriage candidates
within other religious institutions. But the state must be a
neutral when it comes to religion. It is not. It has taken the
bad marital theology of some churches, which in turn is derived
from nonreligious social prejudices, and set it in law, thus
discriminating against our sacraments.
we call upon our fellow Christians – particularly those who
recognize marriage as a sacrament – to seriously reopen their
theological considerations of the sacramental nature of marriage.
We ask them to put aside the blinders of a heterosexist society
and to explore with the openness of the Spirit. We ask them
to explore with intellectual honesty in their search of the
truth. In doing so we are confident that they will discover
that God can and does use the sacramental marriage team of gay
men, lesbian women, and heterosexuals with equal dignity, equal
power, equal love, and equal grace.
know that the Kingdom of Heaven has been enhanced by gay and
lesbian couples throughout history. This even includes some
such as Sergius and Bacchus who were openly recognized and officially
canonized as saints in the very early Church. Rather than stand
against the progress of the Spirit, we especially call upon
the churches of Christ to boldly stand for love and truth, and
to pave the way toward marital equality in the United States
and the world. To do otherwise is to limit the Holy Spirit to
a subset of the population and to darken the all-saving Gospel
of Jesus Christ.
Archbishop Mark Shirilau 08/19/1999
2000-2001 The Ecumenical Catholic Church