Campolo proposes gay marriage compromise

Tony CampoloTony Campolo has posted today offering A Possible Compromise on the Gay Marriage Controversy. Basically he makes the very sensible suggestion that marriage should continue to be understood as “a sacred institution”, and that

the government should get out of the business of marrying people and, instead, only give legal status to civil unions.

This is what happens in many countries of continental Europe, in which legal marriage ceremonies are separate from religious ones. On this basis the government could allow civil unions between same-sex couples, if it chose to do so, without this having any religious implications. And each church or other religious grouping could perform whatever ceremonies it wished, and not perform those it did not wish, without government intervention.

It actually amazes me that this is not already the situation in the USA, where religion is supposed to be separate from the state. Even though there is not that same separation here in the UK, I think it would make a lot of sense to move British marriage and civil partnership practices in the same direction.

0 thoughts on “Campolo proposes gay marriage compromise

  1. I have held the same (or similar) opinion for a while as Campolo…that government should stay out of marriage all together, and should only grant civil unions…

    Constitutionally, legal (civil) unions should be allowed according to the constitution of any state. The US constitution does not allow the federal government to make a ruling one way or the other on the issue.

    Marriage, in my opinion, should be left only to the church. Marriage is extensively different than a union. Should a church dare say they will grant a homosexual couple marriage – then so be it within that church and we (the people and government) should let judgment up to whatever god that church claims to be serving.

    Unions are a contract relationship (sometimes also considered a treaty). And those who want to go into a contract relationship can do that. Marriage is a covenant relationship. Those who have the desire to be in a covenant relationship should first of all, understand what that means. And, secondly know that it is vastly different than a contract (union) relationship.

    A contract relationship asks the parties involved to follow points outlined in the contract, and if you don’t live up to those established and pre-agreed on points, the contract is null and void.

    A marriage covenant (based on scripture) is not the same as a union because it is not based on a contract agreement. A covenant marriage relationship is not based on what I need or what the other party needs. It is based on what I say I will do regardless if the other party keeps up their end. In sickness and in health, better of worse, etc etc. That means, whatever the circumstances arise I promise that I will keep this promise and stay committed to the promise that I have made to you. A union contract, if any of the “shortcomings” occur to either side, either party can eradicate the contract. A covenant can not be annulled…a covenant is not contingent upon ‘demands’ being met, but rather the commitment to the promise.

    God made a covenant with His people in scripture – He has kept and will continue to keep His promise even though we, His people, have failed miserably to keep our “end of the deal” – His promise and covenant will still stand. That is the difference between the Biblical understanding of marriage covenant and the American understanding of marriage.

    I, personally, would like to see more unions here in the US and a whole lot fewer marriages. I think we should limit marriage to those who actually have the passion, integrity, maturity, understanding and desire to keep their covenant promise.

  2. Chris and Jay, thank you. The distinction between a covenant and a contract needs to be better known.

    Chris, I hope you are not suggesting that Christians should enter contract-type civil unions (heterosexual or same-sex), rather than marriages, and have sexual relations within them. But that is perhaps better than living together unmarried, or entering into an ill thought out marriage.

    There are a lot of issues here to do with cultural expectations in marriage which I could go into, but I won’t not least because American wedding culture is rather different from the English variety I am more used to.

  3. “Chris, I hope you are not suggesting that Christians should enter contract-type civil unions (heterosexual or same-sex), rather than marriages, and have sexual relations within them. But that is perhaps better than living together unmarried, or entering into an ill thought out marriage.”

    no no. That’s not what I am suggesting. 🙂

    What I am suggesting is that for “legal” purposes – anyone who wants to co-habitate and receive the legal/tax benefits as such would need to enter into a state sanctioned civil union….

    If a couple would want to marry into a covenant relationship – that should be only within The Church. Perhaps to enter into marriage a couple would first have to obtain a civil union (although, I don’t see that as necessary – but only for legal & tax purposes). And, again – should a church marry two men or two women – than let it be up to and within that church to decide and up to the god that church serves to pass judgment….

    Holy Marriage then would have no legal benefit or ramification and, conversely, the state would not “recognize” marriage at all. The state would have no need to”recognize” marriage.

  4. Thanks, Chris. I think I agree with you. But there are some difficulties. For example, the state would very likely allow civil unions to be terminated more or less on demand, and might be pressured to allow “polygamous” ones. The way in which the state currently sanctions marriage, at least in the USA and the UK, keeps a tie with traditional marriage and at least for some serves to promote lifelong fidelity. I say this to point out that there is another side to the argument. The answer to that is to ask whether the church should be in the business of promoting good marriages among non-Christians rather than of promoting the gospel untarnished by the world’s standards.

  5. Actually I disagree. Marriage was around long before the Church, and I think the Church has no more business offering it than the state does (can anyone show in scripture that the early church offered marriage services? I think not). I think the Church should get out of the marriage business altogether and simply offer services of prayer and blessing for those who have been legally married. I don’t want crowds of non-Christian people beating the road to my door for weddings (using the Christian marriage service, which is the only one I’m authorised to use) simply because the church is the only outfit in town that offers marriages.

  6. Tim, I wonder if you disagree in substance or only in terminology. I’m certainly not suggesting that unbelievers who want to get married should come to church – I’m suggesting they should only have a state ceremony. I was suggesting church ceremonies for those who want “services of prayer and blessing” for their union. So the difference between your suggestion and Campolo’s is mainly in what is given the label “marriage”.

  7. Well, according to your quote, Campolo says that the government should get out of the business of marrying people and, instead, only give legal status to civil unions.

    I’m in favour of entirely the opposite: that the Church should get out of the business of marrying people and simply offer services of prayer and blessing to those who have been legally married by the State.

  8. Unusually, Peter, I don’t agree with you, though this may be a less undesirable concession than people being forced by the state to perform same sex marriages that they believe to be immoral or a semantic outrage.

    Christian marriage is not something conceptually quite different from any other sort of marriage. Nor is marriage something created or bestowed by the state, or for that matter by the church. It is a state that exists by the nature of things. The ceremony relates to how the world at large can recognise who is married and who is not.

    Whether attested by the church, the state or anyone else, ultimately, the couple marry each other. They aren’t married by the church or the state.

    The public bit marks an important distinction between being married and not being married. Also, for Christians, it’s right, good and proper that people should be able to marry before God and seek his blessing upon their union. But that isn’t what marries them.

    I think it’s better that in England we can still get married in church rather than have to get married in a registry office or a town hall, and then have a separate blessing afterwards. But even in that case, a civil marriage does not produce a conceptually different relationship or set of obligations from a church one.

    Also, incidentally, if churches did cease to be authorised to marry people, the form of any church service would have to change to a blessing of a union that already existed, as is used for some second marriages. It would be a conceptual and liturgical nonsense for a couple to go through the current form of wedding service when they had already married in a registry office.

  9. Dru, thank you for raising the question of what exactly marriage is. Campolo takes it as something that comes from God and is administered by the church, and which the state should not interfere with. Tim Chesterton seems to take it as fundamentally a matter for the state, to regulate citizens’ status like Campolo’s civil unions. But, Dru, you may be nearer to the point when we see marriage as what happens naturally when men and women live together, and which is merely recognised and regulated through ceremonies. And I think you are right to conclude from that premise that the current UK situation doesn’t need to be changed much.

    The questions is, is that premise correct,? It helps to consider how this concept of marriage survives the challenge from same-sex unions. This needs further study.

  10. I think on reflection I may be closer to Dru’s position – that marriage is something couples do for each other (‘He took her into his house’ – no mention of either a rabbi or a J.P. being involved!). A judge friend of mine here in Canada told me once that the state only started getting involved in marriage to regulate marriage breakdown – divorce, division of property etc.

  11. Tim the law from which the present laws in England are descended was introduced in the 1750s so that it would be clear who was married to whom, and who wasn’t.

    Before then, it was possible for people to find themselves married by a mistake. It was also possible to marry in secret. So a person who for years had assumed they were married to their spouse, or even thought they were a widow or a widower, could suddenly find they weren’t because the spouse had previously married someone else, without there being any way of knowing.

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