IDEMA: Should clergy preside over gay marriages?

May 24, 2012


In most of the years covered by the biblical writings, marriage was between one man and many women. Women often died young in childbirth — so, to ensure having many offspring, a man usually had many wives. Not as many as Solomon, but more than one.

Moreover, until fairly recently marriage in western culture was not for love but rather for political and economic reasons. "Romantic love" as a reason for marriage is fairly new in the overall sweep of history.

So, the evolution of marriage is nothing new. Now we are at the point in the life of both our society and within our churches when we are debating another step in this evolution: the marriage of people of the same gender. In my opinion, this is positive for both church and society.

In my experience, gay people who have been married in states where this is legal do a better job of staying together than straight people. Divorce is less common. Moreover, gay people don't abort their babies; and yes, many gay couples do have biological children. And they make wonderful parents for those they adopt.

If we are worried about the sanctity of marriage, heterosexual people — with their divorces, abuse and adultery — have already nearly wrecked that concept. I believe gay couples will do much to repair this damage.

Some denominations, such as the Episcopal Church, have developed or are creating marriage rites for gay people. And in those states where gay marriage is not legal, many churches have liturgical rites to bless unions that have no legal contract.

One confusion about marriage that the church has struggled with for years is the fact that state empowers clergy legally to preside over marriages. Many of us clergy resent being instruments of the state. Actually, marriage in a religious institution is both a legal contract and a sacrament with spiritual meanings far beyond the legal aspect.

In my opinion, all couples, both gay and straight, should get the legal contract from the state and the role of the Church would be simply to bless such unions.

A few clergy no longer will do the legal work for the state, so the couple has to go to the state for their license. But this idea that all legal marriages are done by the state, and sacramental marriages are done by religious institutions — an idea common in Europe — has not taken root here, unfortunately.

If marriage for gay people becomes legal here in Michigan, no one will force clergy to preside over such unions. As with marriages now, the clergy will make that decision based on a variety of reasons (e.g., whether they are members of the congregation, have successfully gone through pre-marital counseling, etc.).

With similar considerations, I think clergy should preside over gay marriages in states where such unions are legal, but this will be a choice each clergyperson will have to make. Moreover, such a decision needs to be in the context of whether his or her parish supports such marriages.

A minister serves his flock, not the other way around. So there needs to be a discussion — and there is no better time than the present! — between clergy and his or her parishioners on the issue of whether marriages of gay people are going to be part of the life of the parish.

Time is on the side of gay marriage because the vast majority of young people support such marriages — 81 percent I read in one poll. If the church wants to thrive in future years, she better listen to the sounds of change — because, as Bob Dylan sang in the '60s, "the times they are a-changing."

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist




Henry you are one of those people who are taking the Church into apostasy. And a minister serves his master Jesus, remember him. Who cares if its not popular you tinkling symbol. There will always be godless men in bars and in preachers clothes who think they are smarter than the 2000 years of Church leaders who's shoulders we stand on and with. And when there are there are only 10 of us left don't look back because God has not changed with the times.


Henry, in your opening statements, you immediately try to manipulate the history of marriage. It is true that "some" marriages at one time were between 1 man and many women because women did indeed, die young during childbirth. However, it still does not change the fact that marriage is between a MAN & WOMEN! No where in the Bible can you find a passage supporting two men bound by the covenant of marriage....or even encouraged. Gay unions cannot not pro-create and this is the fundemantal purpose of marriage. In addition, a vast majority of young people do NOT agree with gay marriage, another distortion of yours. Less than 11% of young people agree that gay couples have the right to is the opinion of young people that gays have the right to live their lives their own way, that is in the 80 percentile of opinions. A "Rev." that quotes a pot smoking, drug addict from the 60's to promote his own agenda cheapens the discussion and solidifies your incompetence to spread the word of our God to others.


There is a seperation of church and state, remember, to those of you who want to discuss the bible and God. It does not matter what God or the bible say as far as marriage. Marriage in the legal aspect is not allowed to have anything to do with church. Legally, any two people should be allowed to marry, whether it be a man and a woman or two men.


Reverend Idema, I appreciate your contributions to the community discussion on many issues. Your intellectual and spiritual generosity toward your fellow humans keeps reminding me that not all religious people are knee-jerk ideologues, which is sometimes how the Tribune comment boards come across. Thank you.


IMHO in this country we have two events that unfortunately have the same name: Marriage (holy matrimony) that in my eyes is a covenant between a Man, a Woman, and God, unbreakable until death. we also have marriage, which is a social contract between 2 consenting parties and the state, which can be dissolved at any time, that grants specific rights and privileges to the consenting parties. The fact that the two are mistakenly linked is unfortunate. My sister and her husband were married on a ship by a captain. the license was signed by him and two witnesses (me being one of them) made them married in the eyes of the state. in the eyes of the Catholic Church, however, they were not considered married until they had their wedding blessed in the Church 4 years later, shortly before the birth of my neice. The whole notion of the state not allowing homosexuals to marry reeks of injustice, much like old laws in the south that made interracial marriage illegal. Likewise, the state forcing churches to marry homosexuals if it is against their beliefs would be a violation of the first amendment. If ALL marriages at the governmental level were just called "civil unions", then there would be no controversy.

Bazz56. please give me specific reference in the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, where Jesus mentions anything about homosexuals/gay marriage. Or birth control and abortion for that matter. I do recall a few things about charity, caring for the disadvantaged, capital punishment, greed, vanity, and wealth accumulation in there, however. About the only concept in the Gospels that could be applicable to gay marriage I can think of off the top of my head is "Do unto others as you would have done unto you". Do I want my right to enter in a social contract with whom I love and am committed to limited for any reason? What if she has the wrong skin color? or is significantly older or younger than me? or is significantly taller than me? what if she is a he?

dyankee, I have not researched it very deeply, but homosexuality was rampant and even celebrated at different times in different cultures, probably most well known in ancient Greece. I would not be shocked if in their social customs similar to marriage, there was the possibility and acceptance of a homosexual committed union.

I am very ashamed of the Catholic Church and the USCCB, and their positions as of late towards this issue, and the knee-jerk political reactions regarding the ACA (legislation whose basic principles--the dignity of man, and later health care as a basic right--have long been the position of the Church since at least Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and explicitly by John XXIII in 1963). If it gets to the point where the Church I belong to is no longer the Church I grew up in and love, it's good to know there are faith communities such as Rev. Idema's where I would likely feel welcome.

Zippy Jones

The clergy presides over people who have never been to a church before. Christians (practicing and non-practicing) marry Buddhists, Muslims, and agnostics in churches

@dyankee: No where in the Bible does it rank sins or state who cannot marry. In fact in numerous places it's states that a man shall "smite" another human being, sacrifice an animal or be killed, yet in other places its mandates to "love one another" and to "turn the other cheek." So be careful quoting isolated passages in the Bible. Because it is filled with conflicts and contradictions.

With that said, , not all heterosexuals want to or are able to "procreate". Should they be denied a marriage? Should a Christian and an atheist be allowed to marry? (Yes). Women were once thought to be a man's property and were denied their American right to vote for a number a reasons like being too "emotional". Plus, I wonder how many people in the south were against civil rights for people of color? Did that stop the "justice for all" from moving forward and giving Americans equal rights?


So, look for it to reopen sometime soon as a gas station and store. Not sure what the Blue Star logo is for, since there doesn't seem to be a gas with that brand around these parts. There is a Blue Star Gas propane company based in California.-Mercy Ministries


Many gay couple wishes to Love marriage quotes marry and share in these reimbursement but have been deprived of this correct since of their sexuality and that is not flaxen.


The recognition of same sex marriages is a civil rights, equality, human rights, political, social, moral, and religious issue in many nations. That is seen with different views. Gayvideos


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