Should I attend the wedding of a gay friend or family member?

The March issue of Christianity Today has a forum titled: “Should I attend the wedding of a gay friend or family member? The invitation will come soon enough.” The article includes three respondents—two Roman Catholics (Eve Tushnet and Sherif Girgis) and one Anglican (Lisa Severine Nolland). Girgis and Nolland contend that Christians have a moral obligation not to attend same-sex weddings. Tushnet argues that “it’s best to show up.”

I’m with Nolland and Girgis on this one because attendance at a wedding is not like attending a concert, where attendance suggests nothing about your own views on the proceedings. A wedding is a public recognition of a union, and those in attendance are there to help celebrate and add their assent to the union. There is a reason that the traditional ceremony includes the bit about “let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” The witnesses are not merely spectating. Their mere presence implies their support of the union. Because our Lord has told us not to celebrate or approve sin (Isa. 5:20; Rom. 1:32), Christians should not attend gay weddings.

Can we invite our gay neighbors to dinner? Can we welcome them as guests in our home? Can we work alongside them as colleagues at our places of business? Can we offer real friendship and love? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But we may not attend their wedding. We should vigorously pursue other ways to love our gay friends and neighbors that don’t include compromise on issues of truth. No one relishes the conflict that comes with declining such an invitation. It’s a tough call, but it is the right call. As Girgis writes, “Friendship isn’t served by supporting what we think is wrong.”

It is worth noting the rationale that Eve Tushnet gives for her opposing view. She is a “celibate gay Christian” who agrees with her church’s prohibition on same-sex behavior. Nevertheless, she says that she would attend—and has attended—for at least three reasons. First, Christians should recognize that same-sex love includes aspects that are holy and honorable. Second, Christians should not risk offending and alienating their gay friends by declining the invitation. Third, Christians who refuse to attend will often be viewed as bigoted and hateful. She writes:

This decision about attendance is easier for me, because I believe God calls some people to devoted, sacrificial love of another person of the same sex. Let me be clear: I don’t think that that love should be expressed sexually. But some people who marry a same-sex partner are doing so out of a call to love, even though they misinterpret the nature of that love. We should support as much as we can. When a woman forgives offenses and humbly apologizes for her own wrongdoing, cares for children, listens, comforts, and learns to put others’ needs above her own preferences, those are acts of love—which do not become worthless or loveless when they take place within a lesbian relationship.

Years down the line, if this person does choose to follow Christ, or live more fully within Christian ethics, will I have conducted myself in such a way that he or she would find me a trustworthy guide? Or will I have focused only on the areas where that relationship is not in line with Christian sexual discipline? Will I have acted as if I am obviously correct and the other person is just perversely following his own self-will?

Attempts by straight Christians to uphold essentials of the faith are often misunderstood as bigotry. But there is much actual bigotry out there. A decision not to attend a same-sex wedding takes place in the same universe as gay-bashing, bullying, and the long grind of contempt toward gay men and women. I am not blaming Christians for that; it’s just the context in which Christian decisions will be interpreted. That context makes it even harder than it would be anyway to believe in unconditional love.

Tushnet cites no concern for approving what God forbids us to approve. In fact, she believes there are aspects of gay marriage that are worth celebrating. And Christians should celebrate those aspects with a good conscience. Her view on this question is not surprising but is consistent with her views on same-sex attraction in general. She believes there are elements of same-sex attraction that are not sinful but are sanctifiable in the context of “spiritual friendships”—a theme that she explores in detail in her recent book.

This is a fascinating forum that illustrates an important point. What Christians believe about same-sex attraction has practical consequences. In this case, it impacts the decision to attend gay weddings. But we shall see that there are other implications as well. In the meantime, you can read the web version of the forum here.

73 Responses to Should I attend the wedding of a gay friend or family member?

  1. jonathan bennett March 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Hello brother. Any thoughts on Russell Moore’s answer to this question?

  2. James Stanton March 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    I’m in agreement with Denny on this one. Be respectful but decline. I feel like it should be mentioned that its far more likely one would be invited to a heterosexual wedding where at least one of the couple is divorced and remarrying. One should at least the consider the implications and merits of celebrating the event.

    • Daryl Little March 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      Great point James. Until any given church settles the divorce issue (in writing…) it is doomed to eventually fall on the SSM issue.

    • buddyglass March 5, 2015 at 1:50 am #

      Agree. But would note that most people (including most in Denny’s tribe) don’t consider it universally wrong for divorced persons to remarry. Circumstances of the divorce matter.

  3. Brett Cody March 2, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    I completely agree with Denny. And while they may call it a “same-sex wedding” it will only ever be a sinful fiction.

  4. Bob Wilson March 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm #


    Just listened to your lecture on Matthew.

    Do you have any idea how your chilling description of the “selection”–tearing apart families forever– sounds to non-believers?

    You make God sound like Joseph Mengele–to the left heaven, to the right eternal torture. For what crime? Not believing what you believe. Not professing the “right” religion.

    • Denny Burk March 2, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

      Bob, I do not contest that the scene is horrific. The reality of God’s judgment is overwhelming. We can hardly bear to imagine it. How much worse to experience it. It makes me shudder.

      Having said that, it really is what Matthew 25:31-46 teaches. It’s also taught elsewhere in scripture–especially the book of Revelation. And in every place God’s judgment appears as justice. In other words, The separation of the sheep and the goats will be wise, right, and good. Everyone will get justice in the end.

      Gods mercy toward us is that He gives us so many opportunities now to avoid this judgment. He has sent us his son, and has provided everything we need for forgiveness and eternal life through him. All we have to do is receive this free gift by faith. And we will be saved. And none of the horrors of the last day will come upon us. He is merciful and good to us in providing the way of escape and showing it to us.

      The invitation to be saved is for any and all sinners–you and me included.


      • Abe Dana March 3, 2015 at 12:50 pm #


        In your lecture you say God is telling me to accept Jesus before it’s too late. No he’s not, you are. I haven’t been visited by any angels. That’s not a snark, I have a real point here. I think you are a fan of Rod Dreher and I am too. So I assume you have read how he describes his sister–very bright, full of love for others, saintly even, but theologically incurious, simply accepting of the religion passed on to her from her parents. In a word, conservative. She did honor to her parents, her culture, her birthplace. And according to you, she’s now probably in heaven simply by luck of having been born into the “right” religion.

        You tell us a just and loving God will send such conservative people unlucky enough to have been born into the “wrong” religion–Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc to eternal torment. For what? Also for being true conservatives–this is, for honoring their traditions and ancestors.


        • Bob Wilson March 3, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

          The post above is from Bob Wilson. Just noticed that the name field picked up the wrong name, Abe Dana. This is a shared computer. Sorry.

    • Paul Reed March 2, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

      Bob Wilson, if you are accusing Denny Burk of not being Christian or Christ-like, I suggest you read Matthew 10:34-37:

      “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

    • Paul Reed March 2, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

      Bob Wilson, I’m sorry to tell you this, but God’s Wrath will make the worst of Joseph Mengele’s torments look like a hangnail. And keep in mind also, that God’s Wrath is forever. There’s no end to it. You are incredibly lucky to have heard the Good News. Just think of all the people who have ever lived who will have never even had a chance. It’s a small percentage of humanity that will even hear the Good News. You should rejoice this day and repent.

      • James Bradshaw March 3, 2015 at 10:12 am #

        What’s this Good News, exactly? Are you saying that all one has to do is believe in Jesus to be saved? Or does one also have to believe certain things about him?

        Can one be saved and still drink wine or smoke pot if they don’t believe they’re sins? Can one vote for a Democrat, use contraception or engage in masturbation and still be saved if they don’t believe they’re sins but still have faith in Christ?

        Is one condemned if they speak in tongues (or don’t) or if they don’t tithe? What if one believes that asking for the prayers of dead saints is acceptable or believe that Jesus is not coeternal with the Father?

        Can you reject the doctrines of Grace?

        You make salvation sound so simple. Unfortunately the fine print changes depending on who you ask.

        • Brian Sanders March 3, 2015 at 10:45 am #

          James: If you are asking honest questions I would commend this book to you. If you work through it with your Bible in hand, you will find all your questions answered.

 according to jesus

          It is also available used at and elsewhere.

          • James Bradshaw March 3, 2015 at 11:31 am #

            Brian, that’s John MacArthurs interpretation. I’m not a Calvinist, so I, along with millions of others, consider him unreliable, and certainly not infallible

            • Mike Lynch March 3, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

              If you’re not going to take into consideration a Calvinists interpretation of Calvinism, maybe you shouldn’t share your own flawed understanding of Calvinsim in order to knock it.

              • James Bradshaw March 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

                Mike, I’m simply pointing out that MacArthurs views caused controversy and division even amongst conservative evangelical scholars:

                • Brian Sanders March 4, 2015 at 7:00 am #

                  James: “The Gospel According to Jesus” caused controversy with Bible teachers/scholars/theologians who had views to the contrary. You claimed to be a seeker. Also, I did not suggest you read the book and cart blanche accept it as correct. My suggestion was that you read it with Bible in hand and test it like a Berean.

                  By the way, MacArthur’s subsequent book, “The Gospel According to the Apostles,” answered the critics of “The Gospel According to Jesus,” and I do not remember it causing much stir. Again, I would commend them both to you if you are honestly seeking the answer to your questions.

                  • James Bradshaw March 4, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

                    Brian, my point was perhaps overly subtle, and it was directed at Paul with his “God as Adolf Hitler” nonsense.

                    Folks like him are making a sales pitch of sorts. “Believe (or do) x … or else”, or face the most awful tortures imaginable (and you can kind of hear them smacking their lips with delight when they utter such things).

                    My point is that the can never make a coherent case for what “x” is when I press for details, or the details vary amongst those are making these veiled threats to such a degree that finding a real form of “fire insurance” is near impossible.

                    If agreement (or coherence) can’t be found, what good is making these threats in the first place? It’s like saying “Doom is certain for you, pal, but how to escape it with any certainty I am unable to tell you.”

  5. Roger Fink March 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I agree, Denny. We have several friends in gay relationships. We are respectful and loving toward them, as we are with all of our friends, yet we have let them know, when asked, that we do not agree with their life style. They respect that we are very honest with them about what we believe, and why, but do not treat then differently than anyone else. They understand that I believe it does not matter what I think. It only matters what God thinks. He is God, I am not. He gets to make the rules.

    Continue to stand firm in the Truth. We have no other choice. We have been bought with a price…

  6. Tony Scialdone March 2, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    I understand your perspective, but I don’t agree. While it’s true that the traditional American/European wedding ceremony includes the line about objections, that doesn’t mean that it’s conventional to bring your objections to the event.

    My question is simple: do you also refuse to attend weddings where one is a believer and the other a skeptic? What about, as mentioned above, weddings where one party has been divorced? How about a wedding where the couple has been living together for years, and finally tie the knot…but not because they’ve “seen the light”? How about a wedding where both parties are believers, are virgins, are of sound mind, but still a terrible fit…would you stay away because you don’t endorse their relationship?

    If one takes the view that our presence is approval of the ceremony, then you should never go anyplace where alcohol is served, for fear that someone there may be getting drunk. We should never go to the grocery store, in case there’s a guy in the produce aisle trolling for a one-night stand. We should never go to a “secular” concert, to avoid hearing (and thus supporting) lyrics that don’t glorify God.

    No, I can’t agree. It seems you’re sending the wrong messages here. Unless you’re consistent about ruling out any behavior that might be misconstrued as approving of sin, you run the equal risk of pretending that homosexual activity is somehow worse than every other thing of which you disapprove.

    I haven’t been invited yet, but I’m sure I will be. While I don’t approve of gay marriage, I accept every individual as worthy of my love and attention regardless of their current state of sinlessness. The only way I can make a dent in their heart is to have a place in it, so I will accept their invitation with grace.

    • natalie roth March 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Good points. I’m a wedding cake designer & am torn over this. My thoughts are the same though. I’ll probably make the cake when asked.

    • Zack Skrip March 4, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      Tony et al: The other marriages are sinful, in that they are entered into sinfully, but they are still marriages. The man who is divorced for wrong reasons and marries another, is still married at the end of the day. He needs to repent, but that doesn’t mean he should divorce his new bride as part of that repentance. He needs to take stock of where he’s at and then move forward in obedience.

      Now, I know people who will not attend weddings as you have outlined above. I know pastors who will not marry a believer to a non-believer, but none of those people are going to argue that after the wedding they are not really married.

      The two men who get “married” are not married.

      These are apples/oranges comparisons.

      • Zack Skrip March 4, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

        Can I just say it’s really hard when you have to let God define things? I mean, I fight against it too. There’s so much that I want to label “good” that God defines as sin. This isn’t about what I think, what you think, what the culture thinks. This is about what God has defined as “is.” What “is” marriage? A man and a woman. We read it in Genesis and Matthew (yes, even Jesus said it). That’s the point of the whole thing.

        If I take joy in something that is sinful, then no matter how my flesh wants to say it is ‘good,’ it just isn’t. No matter what I think or feel at the time. This is what sin is, the desire to define things on our own, apart from God. God said the fruit was bad, and Eve thought it looked good.

  7. Don Johnson March 2, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Legalism is deadly and selective legalism is hypocritical. Why not show mercy and hope for mercy for yourself Denny?

    ESV 1Co 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

    Whatever this verse means, it at least means that a believing widow is to marry a believer. Would Denny attend a wedding where he believes such is not the case? Remember:

    ESV Mat 7:2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

  8. Christiane Smith March 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    I thought about this question of attending for a very long time, and read the comments respectfully.

    I can only speak for myself.

    I am a sinner saved by Christ. If I loved the people who invited me as dear friends or family, I would go out of love for them, because they would know that is WHY I was there.
    The ‘discomfort’ I would feel would be there, but it wouldn’t be the kind that some might feel, no. I would feel discomfort for having sat in judgment on these people I cared about, because my judgment of their situation would mean that I held my own situation in this world to be higher than theirs, and I know this to be wrong because as a sinner saved by Christ, anything I have of good in this world, I owe only to Him. All consideration of my ‘own goodness’ compared to others would be the result of the sin of pride.

    Our Lord changes the old equation. He puts things into a different light for us. He offers us a way to become detached from our pride. I would attend, cautiously bringing hope for all present, that God, in His great mercy, would see in us all the need for a Great Physician. I would include myself in this hope, yes.

    In Christ, all kinds of healing become possible, even our own.

    • keithkraska March 3, 2015 at 10:37 am #

      Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death.
      Sin is a murderer.
      It is a mortal enemy. It is an eternal threat.
      How should we act when a murderer threatens our loved ones? Even if they don’t think it’s a threat?
      Should we not stand against the enemy of our friends and family?
      Should we not, at the very least, refrain from celebrating a lethal predator attacking our loved ones? If we attend such a celebration with no dissent, it’s as if we’re accessories to their murder. Like Saul holding the coats.
      It’s certainly not love.
      Sinners warning other sinners about sin is protective and heroic and selfless. It’s bonding against a common enemy, or at least trying to.
      Conversely, to substitute our own definition of love for the love that does not rejoice in sin (1 Cor. 13:6) is the epitome of self-righteousness.
      If we concede that gay marriage is a sin, and we refuse to resist it, then we have no more right to oppose any other injustice and atrocity in the world. To say we shouldn’t oppose others’ sin because we’re sinners ourselves is to denounce Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce, not to mention Biblical heroes like Elijah and John the Baptist.
      Jesus taught us to hate our own sin the most, but not exclusively.

      • Christiane Smith March 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

        Hi KEITH,
        thanks for responding . . . you wrote this: “Jesus taught us to hate our own sin the most, but not exclusively”

        It made me remember a part of the Gospels of Our Lord where He tells of those who wanted to stone a woman . . . and we know Our Lord’s response to them, and we know what they did at that moment.
        I believe that we are called into the life of Christ and His Words are part of our food for that life. He offers to us the bread of life, and if we are to take it from Him, it may be true that first we must put down our stones.
        This is the time in my Church that I am called into repentance and reflection. I, too, recall the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in this season of my own lenten journey:

        “”” We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others. The Incarnate Lord makes His followers the brothers and sisters of all humanity. The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) revealed in the Incarnation is the ground of Christian love toward all on earth that bear the name of human. The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the Body of Christ. All the sorrows of humanity falls upon that form, and only through that form can they be borne. The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed: in other words, they must be conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:4). The Christian life is a life of crucifixion.”
        (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

        Keith, we each see Christ from a different place on our own journey towards Him. I’m glad we have had the opportunity to share our thoughts along the way.
        God Bless.

  9. James Bradshaw March 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    Bob writes: “Do you have any idea how your chilling description of the “selection”–tearing apart families forever– sounds to non-believers?”

    It gets worse, unfortunately. Those who adhere to the “five points of Calvinism” assert that God decreed that those with the “wrong” beliefs would have those beliefs in the first place. Good luck trying to figure out which side of Election you’ve fallen on.

    I think the only proper relationship to such a Being is terror. Love? Not a chance. At least not in any human sense.

    In terms of how conservative Christians should deal with gay couples in their family, let me relate my own experience: my partner’s father was at one time extremely opposed to the idea of his son being gay. He probably would have preferred him dead than gay. We’ve been together for four years at this point, though, and we’ve had him to our home. He’s seen how I’ve been there for his son through some difficult and challenging times and have supported him. So, he’s come around in some ways and has invited BOTH of us to his home for various holidays. Do I expect him to remain conflicted about our relationship? Certainly. Yet, I expect to be at least treated with the same decency and respect as if I were only his son’s best friend instead of his partner. Is this unreasonable? Is asking both of us over for dinner an implied “approval” of our relationship? I don’t think it is. I think it’s a reflection of his appreciation for the very real care I have for his son.

    Another example: if you have a Christian relative marring a non-Christian, would you avoid their wedding? Is it not possible to embrace the good of their future spouse and celebrate their devotion to each other without agreeing with every facet of their beliefs or ideals?

    • Lynn B. March 3, 2015 at 6:39 am #

      James: You write, “I think the only proper relationship to such a Being is terror,” and I agree with you. Except for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and redemption through His blood my only relationship with the God of Heaven is to fear Him and His wrath. But that is part of the beauty of redemption, that whom I rightfully feared becomes my loving Father and closest Friend.

  10. Lynn B. March 3, 2015 at 6:26 am #

    Over the years, I have declined to attend several weddings because of unbiblical divorce or a professed believer marrying an unbeliever. In one situation, I declined to attend a sister’s second wedding but attended a very small dinner reception following (thinking at that point they were already married). On another occasion when an unbelieving sister was marrying another unbeliever I had the bride in the ladies room even as the music played encouraging her to reconsider and telling her it was not too late to call it off.

    Looking back, I realize that at the time these things happened I was horribly proud and self-righteous. That does not mean my decisions were wrong but that my own sinful heart cast a shadow over the decision and made it offensive. We tend to not see our own pride and self-righteousness and we tend to run in ecclesiastical circles where we all think alike so it is likely the person sitting beside me in the pew on Sunday is likeminded and not likely to confront my pride because they do not even see my pride.

    My point is not that we should attend same sex weddings; we should not, but that we should be very careful of our own hearts in the matter. Our pastor has been strong in teaching us that Matthew 7 (self-examination) precedes Matthew 18 and encourages us when we confront the sin of another that we share how we have sinned in the same way… how have you and I sinned like the one living in homosexuality? To answer that question we have to get below the surface sin to the heart level, things like self-worship, self-indulgence, being the god of our own lives and not being willing to submit to the Word of God, etc. Matthew 7 says the greater sin, the beam, is always mine and I cannot see the speck in the eye of another objectively until I remove the beam in my own eye first. But remember too that we are commanded to confront both the beam and the speck; it does not say to ignore the speck in your brother’s eye because of the beam in yours.

  11. alison swihart March 3, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    We should boycott same sex weddings only if we also boycott weddings where one of the couple has been divorced.

  12. Curt Day March 3, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    I ran into this issue while at Occupy Wall Street. Though I could celebrate that a same-sex marriage could take place in society and thus a greater recognition of gays as being equals in society, I could not attend the service because, as a guest, I would be lending approval of that kind of union. To me it is like celebrating the freedom of religion in this country while not attending certain services because they are contrary to my faith.

  13. Dal Bailey March 3, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Well, my opinion is that I’d not attend simply as it may look to others that I was condoning this.

  14. Chris Ryan March 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    The entirety of Denny’s argument hangs on the view that attending a wedding is giving assent to the marriage. But frequently that’s not the case. I’ve attended weddings where I’ve barely known the other party and so couldn’t give any kind of assent. Sometimes I’ve attended weddings out of familial or professional obligation. I’ve attended because its in a fun location. And, of course, I’ve attended the weddings of divorcees. I think the only rule is: If you want to go, go. If you don’t want to go, don’t. Its that simple… Its like Thanksgiving dinner: Going doesn’t imply anything at all about your views of whose also in attendance. I don’t even like some of the people who attend my family’s Thanksgiving dinner 😉

  15. Matt Martin March 3, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Depends if there an open bar or not. If so, then yes!

  16. Akash March 4, 2015 at 4:51 am #

    Then what about a wedding of Divorced people?

    • Akash Charles March 4, 2015 at 4:52 am #

      What about a wedding of Divorced people>

      • Akash Charles March 4, 2015 at 4:56 am #

        nvm people already raised this pls delete…

    • Denny Burk March 4, 2015 at 7:28 am #

      Among other things, it depends on whether there were biblical grounds for the divorce. If someone is entering into a marriage that God’s word clearly forbids, then you shouldn’t participate.

      • Don Johnson March 4, 2015 at 10:58 am #

        So if a former spouse suffered abuse or neglect and divorced for that reason per David Instone-Brewer and Jewish understandings of Tanakh, would you attend or not attend?

        When my wife and I married, we used egalitarian marriage vows which were symmetric. Would you decline to attend such a wedding?

        What about a Roman Catholic wedding where both parties accept the RCC teaching that there is no reason for divorce, but annulment costs a price?

        At what point do you decide to stand on principle when the participants disagree with you? Or do you only attend weddings for those that believe exactly like you do?

        • Mike Norman March 5, 2015 at 8:37 am #

          Don: The goal is to honor God and His Word. We in this lifetime will never do that perfectly but that is always the goal. In some situations what that means may not always be perfectly clear, but with same sex marriage God’s Word is perfectly clear and one truly seeking to live by the Word and submit themselves to it will find it quite clear on how to reply to such an invitation.

          I find your question about abuse and neglect especially interesting because my personal experience is that when the Word is truly followed the opportunity for divorce because of abuse is greatly minimized. An abusive brother years ago was put in jail by his wife and thereafter even when drunk he never physically hurt her again. In many ways, she lived a hard life no matter, but the wife raised two children on their knees praying for their daddy and they are each one are today a trophy of grace. The goal is not ease or “happiness” in this lifetime but being made Christ-like and often the hard places in life do that best.

          • Don Johnson March 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

            To the antebellum slaveholders, God’s word was perfectly clear that a believer could be a slaveholder, there was no contradiction between the two. The SBC FORMED over this issue, it would not exist otherwise as those troublemaking northern Baptists kept claiming that a believer could not be a slaveholder and the only way to get them to shut up was to form a new group and not invite them.

            Look at all the variation in doctrine among believers that exists, each claiming to get it from Scripture. I think it is obvious that on most things God’s word is not clear and to claim it is clear is not true in many cases. The basic reason it is not clear is that it is an ancient text, we do not speak the language, we do not live there and we do not live the customs they lived.

            Translations can help us but they can also deceive us, this is because anyone that is bi-lingual knows that words in one language do not map on a one for one basis to words in another and this is true for all current languages, how much more true is this for a translation from an ancient language to a modern one.

            I disagree on exegetical grounds with the supposed clear teaching of Scripture that all homosexual acts are condemned. Sure, there are some translations that teach this, but I think those translations are flawed in this area.

            • Lynn Burgess March 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

              Don: Paul did send Onesimus back to Philemon with instructions on how to treat him that did not include granting him freedom… and elsewhere (i.e. Col. 4:1) Paul gives instructions to masters on how to treat slaves and N.T. instructions are also given to salves on how to serve their masters (i.e. 1 Peter 2:18ff). That all seems perfectly clear to me in any translation and I am a Yankee (smile)! That is not to say that I am advocating for slavery.

              I actually think your argument is backwards. Today we are talking about endorsing something that scripture says is both sinful and a judgment of God. The tension between the northern and southern churches was over forsaking something scripture did not forbid but was not expedient for the cause of Christ. It was a matter of liberty but all things are not expedient.

              We have to get beyond the place of thinking accepting someone’s overt sin is somehow loving them; it is not.

              • John Kreiner March 6, 2015 at 11:39 am #

                Per Philemon particularly, Thabiti Anyabwile argues that Paul was requesting that Onesimus be freed, though he did not command it. He points out v.16, saying “No longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” means Onesimus would not be a slave anymore:

                • Zack Skrip March 6, 2015 at 11:51 am #

                  Yep. That’s true, and not just from Thabiti. The trajectory of the book clearly calls for a change in the way slavery was practiced. I’ve argued at other locations that the ethic of Christianity would bring about the end of slavery, at least practiced by Christians.

                  That, and the slavery of the time, while still open to abuse, was not slavery like we saw in the US. The slaves were still paid, had their own possessions, and some of them were of high social standing, far above freemen.

                • Lynn B. March 6, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

                  I agree with Zack that N.T. slavery was not the same as American slavery and to understand scripture we need to look to the former and not the latter.

                  I would commend to you John MacArthur’s book, “Slave,” which is an exegesis of the word “Doulos.”

                  I do not have time to grab the book and give you an exact definition but doulos means someone who has no freedom of any kind, no rights, no personal property, no control over oneself, etc. Doulos is the word wrongly translated “servant” or at best “bond-servant” in our English Bibles.

                  When we better understand what it actually means to be a doulos of Christ it informs how we understand the topic at hand.

                • Don Johnson March 6, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

                  The book of Philemon presents Paul as asking Philemon to free Onesimus, and comes just short of demanding it.

                  Slavery in 1st century had different forms, slaves in the mines were worked to death, but household slaves could become Roman citizens when they were freed by a Roman citizen, so it was actually a way to climb the social ladder in some cases. But slavery was not racial.

                  Antebellum slavery was racial, blacks being seen as inferior subhumans with slavery being the best thing for them, which shows how far some will go to distort the truth. All of this was seen as being endorsed by Scripture, even it is was twisted, the people claiming this refused to see their twisting. The uproar over “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was not just because of its shabby treatment of slaves, it was because the treatment was arbitrary, there was a huge difference between having a good master and having a horrible one, but both were allowed by the system, so the system was evil.

                  The point is that self-interest (selfishness) can be a powerful distorter of God’s truth such that people INSIDE the system cannot see how evil it is until they step out of it. That was the case for me with complementarianism.

                  • Zack Skrip March 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

                    Don, the same could be said for you now as you say for the traditional Christian understanding. The heart is evil and it wants to distort God’s clear word. But your reasoning leaves us with epistemological nihilism. Because it was distorted then, it can be distorted now, and therefore a truth claim is impossible. How about the fact that the pro-slavery side was wrong at a grammatical level? How about that it can be proven? We don’t have to give in to saying we can’t know.

                    • Don Johnson March 6, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

                      I am not saying that we cannot know. I am saying that self interest is a powerful distorter of what God’s word actually says. The slaveholders invented a “curse of Ham” that applied to black people instead of Canaanites. I think there is a similar misreading of Scripture by complementarians.

                  • Lynn B. March 6, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

                    Don: I know MacArthur is not “thus sayeth the Lord” and I know some of you are not JMac fans, but for whatever it is worth the MacArthur Study Bible notes clearly interpret the passage as I indicated earlier.

                    Again, I would encourage you to read “Slave.” Blessings!

        • Esther O'Reilly March 5, 2015 at 8:53 am #

          All of these red herrings are swimming around the elephant room, namely, that same-sex so-called “marriage” is not a marriage at all. This isn’t about “singling out one kind of marriage over others to pick on,” this is about recognizing that two men getting up and saying “I do” does not constitute “marriage” in ANY sense of the word.

          • Esther O'Reilly March 5, 2015 at 8:53 am #

            *elephant in the room

    • Chris Ryan March 4, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

      Are you going to give your assent to the wedding, or are you going to simply socialize with family, friends, or colleagues? The only one at a wedding who’s truly giving their assent is the preacher (and even this isn’t always true). The rest of us are going to enjoy some cake!

  17. Ted Weis March 4, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    Perhaps unintentionally, by CT publishing a view arguing that same sex behavior is God honoring, they are contributing to the Church’s growing doubt about what Scripture prohibits, a teaching which Robert Gagnon argues is pervasive, absolute, strong, and counter-cultural.

  18. buddyglass March 5, 2015 at 2:04 am #

    Possible third way:

    Explain to the couple who invited you that you can’t in good conscience celebrate the formalization of their relationship, but that because you care deeply for them your primary goal is to respect them as individuals. To that end, if they would prefer you not attend because of your inability to fully participate as a celebrant then you will honor their wishes. If, however, they would be hurt by your not attending then you will make a point to be there.

    If you just decline the RSVP and don’t attend then the couple may have no idea why you declined to attend and what your views are. Doing the above makes three things explicit:

    1. You cannot truly celebrate the formalization of a same-sex relationship, yet
    2. You care deeply for the couple who invited you, and
    3. Your primary goal is to honor and respect them as individuals, whether that means attending or not attending.

    • Mike Norman March 5, 2015 at 8:23 am #

      Buddy: You make an interesting statement and it may explain some of the confusion and/or dialogue on this matter… “3. Your primary goal is to honor and respect them as individuals, whether that means attending or not attending.”

      Actually, the primary goal is to glorify God.

      • Christiane Smith March 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

        There is a reference to the glory of God in Isaiah which is connected to the time when we cease the pointing of the finger at any one in scorn. Giving up the ‘scorn’ of ‘other sinners’ is a ‘sacrifice’ of self-righteousness, and also a recognition that we ALL need are in need of the mercy and forgiveness of God.

        There is a time to realize that grace is not to be found among the self-righteous because there is not even one among us who has not contributed to the sufferings of Our Lord upon the Cross. If that doesn’t humble us in our own eyes, then is it possible that we can expect the pointing of the finger at ‘worse’ sinners than we see ourselves to be to bring forth the glory to God.

        The trap of ‘self’-righteousness collects the prideful, and the contemptuous. It is a dark pit from which only a man’s broken heart over Our Lord’s suffering gives him the strength to escape.

        Once a person no longer sees himself as ‘better than’ others, only then he is ready to serve Our Lord in those places where the self-righteous would not dare to venture out of fear of ‘contamination’ or loss of the respect of others around them. And what is needed for this journey into ‘those places’? Likely ‘stones’ are not on the list, no. We find the great weapons of the Kingdom are not what we are accustomed to here on Earth, but they are great weapons none-the-less . . . we go into ‘those places’ bearing within us the peace of Christ, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the healing grace God only shares with the humble of the Earth.

      • buddyglass March 5, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

        Agreed. Though, I’d argue that honoring and respecting gay people as individuals isn’t contradictory with the overarching goal of glorifying God.

        • Christiane Smith March 5, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

          Hi BUDDY GLASS,
          I’m for honoring the dignity of any human person as a reflection of the image of God. In my Church, the dignity of all mankind was confirmed when Our Lord was incarnated. When He assumed our humanity in order to heal it, He showed us the real worth of even a single human life to God. In His death and in His resurrection, we find the possibility of our kind returning again to the Lord Who made us for Himself.

          When one human person disrespects another, thinking himself ‘better than that other sinner’, there is no glorification going on, or any justification either, so I am for a return to humility before the Lord and compassion for those we see around us who need Him. There is no room for ‘disrespecting’ anyone in a person who is humbled by his own sins, once he realizes the price that was paid for them.

          • Zack Skrip March 5, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

            Christiane, you wrote:

            When one human person disrespects another, thinking himself ‘better than that other sinner’, there is no glorification going on, or any justification either,

            But is that what’s going on one when someone says, “Hey, God said don’t do that. He said you can’t live a life like that and be OK”? There are sins in my life that fall into the same 1 Cor 6:9-11 list. That means, I need a brother to come along and tell me the same thing. Unless the only way to honor someone is to let them die in their sins.

            It isn’t honoring anyone to let someone die under this condemnation: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:9 ESV)

            Not being snarky at all, but do you have a category for calling someone to repent of their sin? Do you have a category for receiving such a call?

            • Christiane Smith March 6, 2015 at 1:31 am #

              Hi ZACH,
              in my Church, pointing to Christ is seen as the way to help people who need Him . . . when sinners ‘look upon Him whom they have pierced’ , it is in their remorse for their part in His suffering that they are brought by the Holy Spirit to the place of healing . . .

  19. Sam Dillon March 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    My sister is a lesbian. I would not attend if she were to marry. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love my sister.

  20. Steve Potts March 6, 2015 at 1:33 am #

    On another blog with a similar topic someone argued that since Jesus ate with sinners that it would be un-Christlike and unloving not to attend a gay wedding. As I thought about that, I remembered that as Jesus ate with tax collectors, self-righteous Pharisees and prostitutes that he also led them to repent. So if a Christian does decide to attend a gay wedding, the Christ-like thing to do would be to urge the participants not to get married but to repent. I’m not sure the advocates of going to a gay wedding are recommending this.

  21. alan davis March 8, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    Denny, if you havent already, could you address Dr Moore’s take on not going to the wedding but attending the reception? I for one see attending the reception as celebrating said marriage and also I would think attending a reception and not attending the wedding in poor taste in general. I would not attend either.

    • Brian Sanders March 8, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

      Alan: Just an FYI – I would attend neither in this situation but as for your statement about attending the reception and not the wedding being in poor taste in general… I would say that is the norm for much of the world. Most unsaved people I know have small private weddings and huge receptions with dinner, dancing, and lots of liquor.

      As for asking Denny to give his opinion on what Dr. Moore said do you think you are putting him on the spot in a way that is not fair to him?

  22. Tracy Bookman March 10, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    Regarding the assertion (a correct one IMO) that attendance = recognition & acceptance, then should a pastor perform a marriage ceremony for 2 unrepentant adulterers?

  23. Stevey-D March 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    Denny, GREAT column! This needs to be stated unequivocally and you did it: “Christians should not attend gay weddings.” You also reasoned it out, biblically. “There is a reason that the traditional ceremony includes the bit about ‘let him speak now or forever hold his peace.’ The witnesses are not merely spectating. Their mere presence implies their support of the union.” GREAT POINT. You nailed it much more concisely than I did at I’m going to link to your column:


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