When the Supreme Court legalized “gay marriage” in all 50 states, including those that, by referendum, opposed it, Liz Simmons, pastor of St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church, rejoiced.
Bible teacher and mission worker, Art Zimmer, wept.
When he heard the cheering in the background as the news was announced over the radio, Zimmer said he felt “deeply grieved” in his spirit, “knowing how blatantly this flaunts perversion in God’s face.
“I pleaded with God to extend mercy to us for the sake of those who still honor His word and ways,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer points to various Scriptures in the Old and New Testament, including passages from Deuteronomy, the Book of Judges and St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and Corinthians, that warn of God’s judgment regarding homosexual activity.
Simmons, whose Episcopal Church uses the same Holy Bible that drove Zimmer to plead for his country, said she celebrates “the fact that people who love one another enough to make a life-time commitment … can now enjoy the legal benefits that heterosexuals have enjoyed for two centuries in our country.”
Now that the Supreme Court has sanctioned gay marriage, Episcopalians will “continue to explore what the new legal landscape means for the church, as we adopt a liturgy for blessings of unions between two loving people,” she said.
Simmons and Zimmer represent opposite sides of a heated debate that has split churches, caused division within family and friendship circles and influenced public policy.
Within the opposition camp, which includes most churches in Kodiak, there are varying kinds of concern.
Opponents point to Scripture, Church tradition and thousands of years of history as a basis for their contention that marriage is limited to a committed relationship between a man and a woman.
Those who support the Supreme Court move argue that society has evolved toward a more tolerant view of homosexuality. Some say that God has changed His mind about the matter. Others say that Scriptures condemning homosexual behavior have been taken out of context.
Kathleen Carlsen, parishioner of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral, said that normalizing homosexuality has been in the works for years.
She notes that in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.
“The attitude at that time was to not bully these people and to live and let live.
“Since then, there has been a continued aggressiveness from the homosexual activists to force people to consider homosexuality as a normal lifestyle and to make it indistinguishable from” the traditional understanding of marriage, she said.
Prior to the recent decision, only three of the 50 states had voted to allow it.
The Supreme Court judges have “taken it upon themselves to act as another legislature, usurping their Constitutional authority,” Carlsen said.
“This is not about anyone’s ability to love another,” Carlsen said. “This is an experiment by five unelected persons (of the US Supreme Court) to overturn traditional marriage, which has been the foundation of societies for thousands of years.”
Shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision, dioceses of the ancient Orthodox Church and conservative, evangelical churches, such as the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) issued formal statements that reiterated their stand on the meaning of marriage.
“The teaching of our Holy Church on the Mystery of Marriage remains the same as it has been for millennia,” said Tikhon, archbishop of the Orthodox Church in America.
Although the Church does not view same-sex marriages as sacramental, it does “see the image of Christ in every individual, and his or her worth in the eyes of the Lord Who died upon the Cross for our salvation,” said Tikhon.
Rev. David Mahaffey, OCA bishop of Alaska, said the Supreme Court ruling “was not totally unexpected. Our country has been headed in this direction for quite a while. When you throw away a moral compass what else do you expect?”
Mahaffey said that making a homosexual union tantamount to marriage is comparable to calling a refrigerator a stove.
Mahaffey said he will not grant any priest a blessing to marry those within same-sex unions.
Parishioners who “struggle with their sexuality will be treated no differently than any other person who confesses their sin,” Mahaffey said. “They will be loved as Christ would love them and they are welcome to come to our services.”
Fred Voss, pastor of WELS parishioners in Anchorage and on Kodiak Island, said that homosexual behavior should not be singled out as a sin that is worse than others.
“All of us are sinners who need to repent, claim forgiveness from Jesus and live lives where we bend our will to His,” he said.
The Bible, not government, should have the final say about morality, Voss said.
Voss foresees turmoil on the horizon for those who refuse to abandon their stand on traditional, biblical marriage.
Already businesses that refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies have been fined for violating anti-discrimination policies.
Mahaffey warned that the United States may “get to a point where even churches that oppose same-sex marriage will be ordered to do so by the courts.”
Ron Paull, pastor of Hillside Bible Chapel in Port Lions, said that the SCOTUS decision is an example of calling good evil and darkness light (Isaiah 50:20.)
“If you intend to live your faith in the coming days be ready for persecution,” he said.
“This is not a bad thing,” he said. “It will strengthen the Church and individual believers.”
Voss said the “turmoil” gives Bible-believing Christians an opportunity “to dig into the Scriptures and find new ways to let the love of Christ and the light of their faith shine brightly in the chaos of this present world.”