Evangelical leaders are responding to Pope Francis’ call for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.
“For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them,” Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook.
“If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf,” he added.
In “Francesco,” a documentary film about his life and ministry that premiered in Rome on Oct. 21, Pope Francis said, “Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to family. Nobody should be thrown out, or made miserable because of it.
“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he continued. “That way, they are legally covered.”
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pontiff had endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as the pope.
Proponents of gay marriage have hailed the pope’s comments as “historic” and “a step forward” in the Catholic church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community, but evangelicals warn that such errant teachings veer from the Biblical definition of marriage.
“No matter what a pope, pastor or elected official says, we do not get to define sexuality or the family,” said J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. “The Creator does, and on this, His Word could not be more clear.”
Russell Moore, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, said that he wasn’t “exactly sure how to interpret Pope Francis’ comments.”
But Moore, who was invited to the Vatican by the pope in 2014 to speak at a conference on the topic of marriage and family, affirmed that “every wing of the church—Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox—has for 2,000 years affirmed Jesus’ view of marriage—that marriage is, from the beginning, a union between a man and a woman in covenant fidelity to one another.”
He continued: “The Bible also makes clear that marriage is a mystery that points beyond itself to the Gospel, the union of Christ and His church. We ought to treat everyone justly and with compassion, including those with whom we disagree, but no church has the authority to put asunder what Christ has joined together in the Word He has given to us.”
Although Pope Francis’ comments do not change the Catholic church’s official doctrinal policy or teachings on homosexuality, many believe that they signal a shift in the culture of the church and its growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.