This page provides a short, highly selective guide to some key resources on same-sex unions and same-sex marriage. The literature here is enormous and I hope to produce more extensive resource guides on different aspects relating to sexuality and LGBTI+ identity. Related resource lists are those on marriage and on transgender.
After highlighting a few resources which bring together a range of views, material particularly focussed on Scripture is highlighted and a number of personal narratives are then identified. The final section sets out some of the main resources both ecclesial and academic concerning same-sex marriage.Last Updated on 28 January, 2022 by Andrew Goddard
Guides to the Questions and Viewpoints
The best single volume to the debates with a range of perspectives being presented is
Preston Sprinkle (ed), Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church (Zondervan, 2016).
In relation to the question of marriage and same-sex unions an excellent guide (reaching more traditional conclusions) is
Darrin W. Snyder Belousek, Marriage, Scripture & The Church: Theological Discernment on the Question of Same-Sex Union (Baker Academic, 2021).
There are also many helpful resources within the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project which can be accessed (after free subscription) here.
Two older still valuable single volumes with excellent articles are:
- Bradshaw, Timothy. The Way Forward?: Christian Voices on Homosexuality and the Church. 2nd ed (SCM Press, 2003) which includes responses from Rowan Williams, Oliver O’Donovan, Michael Vasey, Elizabeth Stuart and others in dialogue with the 1995 St Andrew’s Day Statement which is itself still an important contribution on which see O’Donovan’s article on Reading the St Andrew’s Day Statement (poorly formatted).
- Groves, Phil. The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality: The Official Study Guide to Enable Listening and Dialogue (SPCK Publishing, 2008) which covers a range of issues (including Scripture, personal stories, science – where particularly strong) and diverse views.
The main conservative writer is Robert A. Gagnon whose major study is The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press, 2003) and who has many resources on his website. Gagnon has a helpful dialogue with Dan Via in Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Augsburg Fortress, 2003).
Richard Hays’ chapter in The Moral Vision of the New Testament is one of the best short statements of the conservative case.
The best discussion of Scripture arguing for change is probably James Brownson, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Eerdmans, 2013). His presentation here sums up many of its central arguments. I have engaged with the book at some length here.
Two short chapters by Ian Paul (pp. 1-23) and Loveday Alexander (pp. 24-51) set out the arguments well as part of The Church of England Shared Conversations.
There is an extensive and very helpful discussion of the key biblical texts and how to read them between two Old Testament scholars, Walter Moberly and Christopher Wright, in the LLF materials here.
A helpful guide from two gay Christians is this video from BIOLA University in the US. It opens (to 19mins) with a welcome and then summary of their own paper on the subject which reaches traditional, conservative conclusions (it can be read here). It is then followed by two gay Christians and authors of important books on the subject – Wes Hill and Justin Lee – introducing themselves (roughly to 29 mins) before they respond to the paper for about 10 mins each (Hill, from a conservative view until 41 mins and Lee until 52 mins). There follows interaction between them which is well worth watching if you have time both for its substance and style.
Personal testimonies and reflections:
There are many powerful personal accounts, with varying degrees of theological and ethical reflection and discussion, from across the spectrum of experiences. The following are particularly important more recent contributions:
- Vicky Beeching, Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame (William Collins, 2018) – story of an evangelical worship leader who after years of struggle comes out and argues Christians should accept gay marriage.
- David Bennett, War of Loves (Zondervan, 2018) – story of a gay rights campaigner who becomes a Christian in a charismatic/evangelical context and comes to accept a conservative theological position and a call to celibacy.
- Marcus Green, Possibility of Difference (Kevin Mayhew, 2018) – story and reflections from an evangelical Anglican priest who after many years came out and supports same-sex marriage. He has a blog with same title.
- Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2017, updated and expanded edition of 2010 original) – work of a New Testament scholar who is committed to traditional church teaching and speaks and writes regularly. See also his Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian (Brazos, 2015).
- Jayne Ozanne, Just Love: A journey of self-acceptance (DLT, 2018) – story of an evangelical Anglican who is now a leading advocate for same-sex marriage through the Ozanne Foundation.
- Ed Shaw, The Plausibility Problem: The Church And Same-Sex Attraction (IVP, 2015) – reflections from a same-sex attracted evangelical and founder of Living Out (where other personal stories can be found).
Contemporary Christian Discussions on Same-Sex Unions and Same-Sex Marriage
Ecclesial Discussions on Same-Sex Marriage
A lot of debate on these matters has taken place in the context of church debates and reports about whether or not to extend marriage. Among the most important of these are:
- The Episcopal Church (USA) where the main resources are:
- A 2011 report from “traditionalists” and “liberals” on same-sex marriage with a response to each other and then responses from across the Communion appeared in the Anglican Theological Review (Vol 93 No 1) and is a helpful guide to the debates.
- Eugene Rogers, one of the lead “liberal” voices later wrote reflections on the dialogue in “Same-sex complementarity: A theology of marriage”, Christian Century (May 2011)
- Report to the 78th General Convention (2015) of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. The papers in the Appendix set out the theological arguments in relation to the doctrine of marriage.
- This report led to various responses helpfully linked to in this article of which the most theologically important conservative response was “Marriage in Creation and Covenant” that in turn led to various scholarly exchanges set out here. There is also an essay by Craig Uffman entitled “Reimagining a Theology of Marriage”.
- Report to the 79th General Convention (2018) of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage is mainly procedural but there is a minority conservative report on pp. 116ff.
- The Scottish Episcopal Church’s move to same-sex marriage was based on its Doctrine Committee’s paper on “The Theology of Marriage” (2015).
- A strong critique was written by Oliver O’Donovan – “The Wreck of Catholic Identity: Marriage Canon Revision in the Scottish Episcopal Church”
- The Doctrine Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia, in helping the church develop its response to the advent of same-sex marriage in Australia, has produced Marriage, same-sex marriage and the Anglican Church of Australia with different perspectives and Martin Davie has again offered a critique.
- The Methodist Church’s report leading to their 2019 proposal to accept same-sex marriages is God In Love Unites Us. Martin Davie has written a critique of its arguments.
- Various resources which were part of the United Reformed Church decision to allow congregations to hold same-sex marriages and offer guidance for such marriages are available on their website. In particular see their 2014 Faith and Order report and “Is there a theological basis for ‘same-sex marriage’?”
- The Church of Scotland has a page giving various resources. The main theological works has been done by their Theological Forum on sexuality especially the important 2017 “An Approach To The Theology of Same-Sex Marriage” and earlier 2013 Theological Commission on Same-Sex Relationships in relation to ministry which helpfully sets out the “revisionist” and “traditionalist” cases.
Roman Catholic statements include:
- A Letter on Marriage from the President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons” (2003)
Within the Church of England the following is the main official material:
- The Church of England’s response to the 2012 government consultation on the proposed introduction of ‘equal civil marriage’.
- A 2013 report “Men and Women in Marriage” from the Faith and Order Commission. Two members of the Commission have written critiques of this – Mike Higton and Charlotte Methuen.
- The 2014 House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (or as PDF).
Academic discussions which offer critiques of same-sex marriage:
Sherif Girgis, Robert George & Ryan T. Anderson’s What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense is a thorough book-length treatment from a Roman Catholic perspective. This expands on their earlier article “What Is Marriage?”. A 90 minute presentation can be watched here and there are other resources from the authors on the book’s website. Matthew Lee Anderson offers a review from an evangelical perspective as does Hans Boersma.
Douglas Farrow – “Thirteen Theses on Marriage” with responses from a range of religious traditions and perspectives.
A collection of essays (including Pope Francis, Tom Wright, Jonathan Sacks) entitled Not Just Good, but Beautiful: The Complementary Relationship between Man and Woman can be downloaded for free from here.
Daniel Meola’s “Defending Marriage: An Overview of the Recent Literature Critiquing Same-Sex “Marriage”” surveys the arguments of a number of books.
Academic defences of same-sex marriage:
Adrian Thatcher – “In Favour of ‘Equal Marriage’”
Paul Achtemeier, NT scholar, has written The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart. You can get a sense of his case from this video “Marriage, Sex and Love: What Is God Up To?” or the videos available at https://covnetpres.org/resources/mark-achtemeier-sex-marriage-bible-video-series/
Jean Porter – “The natural law and innovative forms of marriage” from a leading RC ethicist and expert on natural law.
Robert Song’s Covenant and Calling argues for covenant partnerships rather than marriage but is probably the best short book on the subject and there and his case can be seen as presenting these as a form of marriage. I’ve engaged in some detail with his argument, including on this question of how his proposal relates to marriage here (especially chapter 6).