CNN recently aired a documentary titled "Gary and Tony Have a Baby," where CNN's Soledad O'Brien followed a same-sex couple in "their struggle against the legal and personal obstacles to become parents" and their quest to achieve a life as mainstream as possible. How do you feel about gay couples having a family? Should they be allowed to adopt and be foster parents? What if you had a gay member of your family and they decided to have a baby through adoption, surrogacy or sperm donor? How would you react to it?
Divine Love is the basis for the desire to bring a new soul into this world.
One of the ways in which we can know the Infinite, is as the perfect expression of Divine Love. God as love sees only the good in the hearts of those who desire a child.
In other words, the principle of Divine Love includes everyone. No one is excluded from the free expression of Divine Love. I'm in favor of same-sex couples raising a child (having a baby through surrogacy, sperm donor or adoption). Also, I am in favor of the single parent (either female or male) who has the desire to raise a child.
In my family, if some relative chose a same-sex union and wanted to raise a child, we would still embrace them as members of our family. We might have many different, human opinions about their lifestyle, but we would do our best to still consider them to be members of our greater family and accept them in love.
•The REV. JERI LINN is pastor of Unity Church of the Valley in Montrose. Reach her at (818) 249-4396.
I want to start with a word of appreciation to Gary and Tony for making the desires of their hearts so public. It is a bridge-building effort to cover the gap between "us" and "them" by naming the yearning that human people hold in common. In some ways, this is a more courageous sort of activism than marching in the street with signs — this exposure of soul to everyone from kindred spirits to harsh evaluators of parental suitability.
In the United Methodist Church, we believe that the family is the most basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect and fidelity. We readily acknowledge that the idea of family embraces a wide range of options, and we welcome and support families in all their beautiful configurations.
I have been particularly touched by the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families who have adopted children — often special needs children or whole families of siblings. That is truly a calling to the work of raising a family, and as a pastor I understand and support the risk-taking that comes with responding to a calling. As a side note, I was surprised to see how many states have unclear laws on second-parent adoption; in other words, they may allow a "single" parent to adopt, including a single gay parent, but there isn't always a clear path to making the second parent legal. This strikes me as something that we as a nation want to work on as part of our efforts to strengthen families. (California permits single gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and joint adoption, and second-parent adoption is allowed.)
We are as a society still studying the ethical dimensions of surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, but those explorations are separate from the question of whether or not gay couples should be legally allowed and morally confirmed in using these methods to create a family.
As Gary and Tony (and so many others) reveal, human love takes many forms, just as God's own love takes many forms.
As Jesus-followers, let's stay open, not closed, to what God will do.
•The REV. PAIGE EAVES is pastor of Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church. Reach her at (818) 249-6173, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
John tells us: If we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. In another place he says: Where there is love there is God, for God is love.
True happiness is found in loving others. When we experience love, we learn how to love. Children, especially, are formed in love when they experience a loving environment. When they grow into a loving family environment, where members truly love one another and show it, the child will blossom and become the happy, psychologically healthy adult who will live the Great Commandment because it has become so much a part of their life.
Foster and adopted children are especially in need of a loving environment. For one reason or another they often feel that they are unlovable because they are often unloved. They develop a poor self image, and as growing children and adolescents they somehow get the feeling that they need to sell themselves to prospective families so that they will be the ones who are "picked" from the group to become fostered or adopted. No child should be made to feel this way. Every child needs and has a right to feel love, feel loveable and become a part of a loving family.
When people — married couples, gay couples or singles — feel the call to love a child, help them to feel lovable and become a part of a loving family, they should be praised for this, not criticized.
Adoption and foster parenting are calls and gifts from God. When they feel this call they should move to contact the proper agencies, submit to their thorough investigations and pray that the discernment moves to a positive conclusion and they receive a child to be raised in the light of God's love.
•The REV. RICHARD ALBARANO is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 504-4400.
I once worked at a church that put out newspaper ads for a contemporary service that said, "We welcome traditional and nontraditional families." It was our fumbling, understated way of inviting gay couples and families to church, without using the actual word "gay" and offending some of our more conservative parishioners.
And from that diffident invitation, a wild beauty was let loose.
For here they came: not just gay couples and families, but single-parent families, interracial and trilingual families, parents and kids with mental and physical challenges, separated-but-shared-custody families, foster families, student exchange families, grandparents-who-parent families, divorced and remarried and reblended families — every configuration of "non-traditional" you could possibly imagine, and some you'd never even thought about.
And we all stood together on Sundays, a messy, happy lot, and belted out our cacophonous songs of grace, and prayed in wondering gratitude for the astounding ways of God, who had brought love into our lives in such surprising and exactly-right turns of life's path.
"Family" has changed. The word has soared beyond the limits of its 1950s profile, and found a new heaven, where love and commitment and the sacrifice of self-interest are the only definitions of what make a house a home.
God's blessing will not be bound. Grace cannot be socially dictated; it goes where it will. If the home of a gay couple overflows with so much love that children can be included in its light, then who's to deny what God has wrought?
•The REV. AMY PRINGLE is rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in La Cañada. Reach her at (818) 790-3323, ext. 11.
The Bible is clear about two things: First, God loves us all, and salvation is necessary because of our sins. Homosexuality is one of those. People who claim to believe the Bible, but say otherwise, overlook passages that speak of it in terms of its condemnation and perversion. They argue to re-categorize homosexuality because the Bible must have gotten it wrong (as if God wasn't aware of supposed gay genes back when he made the rules regarding our sexuality).
Other homosexual proponents object by reminding us that one sin is as much sin as the next. True, but never is that an excuse to just sanctify them all. If behaviors are equally wrong, we don't endorse one because someone engaged the other. God wants our repentance from all sin.
Another red herring is the muddling of cultural and moral laws in the Bible. If it was wrong for the ancient Israelites to consume shellfish and it was also wrong to commit sodomy, it's argued that modern Christians simply pick and choose which sins they will apparently baptize when dining at Red Lobster yet also voting for Proposition 8. But there's a big difference in what God used to make a distinct, historic people group, and what he expects from all mankind indefinitely.
I believe the very fact that procreation is always impossible reveals the incorrect nature of homosexuality, and pretending it's good and natural by granting same-sex couples children is a big mistake. God created our makeup to be complementary, and only a woman can be feminine for her children as only a man can be the masculine influence they need.
While God loves homosexuals, and hurts for them in their desire to have families, he loves them enough to call them out of their sins that he may bless their desire. God extends himself all day long, but in the end there will be no more talk of salvation for those who continue to "call evil good and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20).
The REV. BRYAN GRIEM is pastor of Montrose Community Church. Reach him at (818) 249-0483.
For the longest time, I have believed that gays and lesbians should be granted full citizenship in this country.
Gays should be allowed to marry with all the benefits and responsibilities that pertain to marriage. They should also be allowed to adopt children. As I may have said before in this column, the issue of accepting gays and lesbians fully into our society is similar to the slavery issue and then the civil rights issue with which our country has struggled in the past.
It was once thought that blacks and whites shouldn't mix, and there were those good Christian souls who ran to their Bibles to try to find justification for their prejudices. I'll grant you that there are scripture passages that say homosexuality is an abomination. But there are also scripture passages that say to work on the sabbath is an abomination. Is one right and another wrong?
Being a thinking, compassionate believer is hard in the 21st century — but then it has always been hard to be a thinking, compassionate believer. As I tell my congregation, when in doubt, choose compassion. The prophet Micah in Micah 6 said that the Lord requires of us to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
So be merciful.
•The REV. CLIFFORD L. "SKIP" LINDEMAN is permanent pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church. Reach him at (818) 790-1185.
This documentary's title says much more than CNN possibly intended. It underscores the deception that exists in the hearts of many, and which many wish to foist upon our society.
The fact is, Gary and Tony cannot have a baby. No homosexual union will ever produce a child. This undeniable fact points us to an abiding, universal truth. God established the pattern for marriage and families with Adam and Eve, a man and a woman who were blessed by God to "be fruitful and multiply." Certainly, heterosexual marriage is about much more than procreation, but any society is foolish to reject the only context which God set for these basic family functions. And remember, Jesus never changed this pattern established by God from the very beginning and he never condoned a deviation from it. He in fact reiterated it (Matthew 19:4-5).
How could a person of faith accept or condone a situation that is in opposition to God's will, so clearly expressed in scripture and so undeniably revealed in the natural laws that he has established? If it deviates from and falls short of God's best for someone, why would I agree with a law that encouraged it? If a member of my family chose such a situation, I would react just as I have toward their cohabitation before marriage and their unwed pregnancies. I'd still love them, I'd let them make their own choices, and as best as I could I'd conduct my life in a God-honoring, exemplary way, praying for the opportunity to share God's truth with them lovingly and honestly.
You may ask "Where's the love?" in this way of thinking. It's found in the cross of Jesus Christ, who in the greatest act of love ever "bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
Jesus didn't deny or redefine our sins. He died for the full payment of them that we might live in a manner that he truly blesses.
•The REV. JON BARTA is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 845-7871.