A Personal Letter to Our Readers
We believe in marriage. We want to see it strengthened. Knowing that strong, healthy, loving relationships are beneficial to the individuals involved and to any children they might have, we want to see couples flourish. We also believe that society, by supporting marriage, benefits as well.
In other words, we take marriage seriously. We affirm the solemn words of the traditional wedding ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer (1892), which asserts that marriage is holy and honorable and should not “be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”
The ceremony tells us that marriage is a holy estate “into which these two persons present come now to be joined.” From this time forward, they will be united in life’s closest relationship. When they are asked, “Who is your nearest relative?” they will no longer give the name of mother, father, sister, or brother, but the name of this person, their spouse. They are now kin. They have made a commitment to love, support, comfort, encourage, and respect each other, helping each other to learn and grow and be all they can be—separately and together. They will be there for each other in happy times, in hard times, and in the in-between ordinary everyday moments. They will have a partner in making decisions and sharing in the many pressures and responsibilities of modern life as well as in simply enjoying each other’s companionship. In short, they are no longer alone. Ideally, this is what it means to be joined together by God in marriage.
And yet, some who have yearned for such public commitment have been denied it. Over history, some couples have been barred from marriage for reasons of social class, race, or ethnicity. The burning question in our day is whether persons of the same sex should be prevented from sealing their love commitment in socially recognized marriage.
Many people have strong reservations about opening marriage to gays and lesbians. The reasons vary and may be rooted in politics, religion, ideas about gender, misinformation about sexual orientation, fear of societal change, or prejudice and bigotry. There may be other reasons as well. Voices have been raised to suggest that permitting persons of the same sex to marry will destroy the institution. We think not. We believe that opening marriage for gay and lesbian people could actually strengthen the institution for all people. This book will show why we believe that.
We not only take marriage seriously, we also take our Christian faith seriously. Among other things, this means that we approach this topic in a spirit of humility, knowing that we “see through a glass darkly,” and none of us has all the answers on this or any other subject. And we speak in a spirit of love, even toward those who vehemently disagree with us. We believe that “since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11), and we believe that this means respecting one another, even when we differ in how we interpret Scripture and understand God’s working in the world.
The discussion we propose is not about winning arguments, nor is it about some abstract concept. It is about human beings, our brothers and sisters who are loved by God, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. We bring to the discussion the conclusions we have reached, asking only that our readers be open to listening and to considering what we ourselves have been learning—and continue to learn.
And so we send out this book as an attempt to promote understanding and dialogue in the spirit of Jesus, who spoke not only of the oneness of two persons joined in marriage, but also prayed for oneness in the family of God: “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).