Reaction to the launch earlier this week of a group calling itself "Evangelicals for Marriage Equality" heralded by an op-ed in TIME by its spokesman, was met with harsh criticism from some Christians, including the assertion that no "real arguments" were made to support same-sex marriages.
"I eagerly await the young evangelical that finally convinces me that the Bible and human history are wrong on marriage and that justice requires that both Christianity and society bestow marriage on same-sex relationships," wrote Andrew T. Walker, director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Walker responded to EME spokesman Brandan Robertson's piece in which he explains why the initiative for evangelicals to support "civil marriage equality" was launched, with his own op-ed the next day in TIME, "An Evangelical Defense of Traditional Marriage."
"I saw a lot of emotion. I saw appeals to injustice and craven caricatures of Christianity, but I didn't see any real arguments," writes Walker. "In 800 words, there's not a coherent argument about the nature of marriage. And that's what this debate Americans are having is about, isn't it?
"It's about one question: What is marriage? This isn't just about Christianity's teaching on marriage. It's about the definition of marriage for society. It's about whether marriage is malleable, or whether marriage has a fixed social purpose that's been recognized throughout all of human history as something distinct from other relationships."
Walker argues that believing that the union of a man and woman is different from any other relationships is not grounded in bigotry or discrimination. "It's grounded in the powers of observation that draw rightful distinctions between different sets of relationships," he said.
EME officials point out that there currently is a generational divide on same-sex marriage among evangelicals. The association, launched by Liberty Education Forum, a non-profit organization "devoted to reaching out to people of faith on LGBT issues" argues that older generations of evangelicals remain largely opposed to same-sex marriage, whereas Millennial evangelicals are becoming more supportive of what they call "civil marriage equality."
"Polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that just 27 percent of all white evangelical Protestants support marriage equality," EME states. "This number is much higher among the younger generation: the same report found that 43 percent of 18- to 33-year-old white evangelical Protestants identified as supporters of marriage equality."
However, Walker who is a Millennial as is Robertson, said the church's theology on marriage, while certainly pivotal to the church, isn't sectarian.
"Marriage leads one outside the walls of the church and into the public square because marriage, by design, reveals a purpose about our being made male and female," Walker wrote. "Marriage has an innately public purpose by bringing together the two halves of humanity. If you embrace man as man and woman as woman, you might be on the losing end of a culture war over marriage, but you'll be on the side of truth when the dust settles about human nature."
Robertson wrote that EME is the first organization of its kind that is "specifically focused on creating conversations within evangelical churches, colleges, and institutions to help dispel myths about marriage equality and stake out a middle ground for young evangelicals in this contentious debate." According to Robertson, the organization was founded by two young, straight evangelicals, Josh Dickson and Michael Saltsman, "who grew up in the church and have an appreciation for both its strengths and its weaknesses."
"As spokesperson for the organization, I represent a growing number of millennial evangelicals that believes it's possible to be a faithful Christian with a high regard for the authority of the Bible and a faithful supporter of civil marriage equality," he stated.
In an EME board member's guest post on the group's website, Richard Cizik, founder of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, writes:
"While I haven't come to a conclusion on gay marriage within the Church, believing sincere people will reach different answers on that question, I am convinced that we cannot deny basic societal and constitutional rights — equal protection and due process under the law — to people based on their sexual orientation or practice. Thus, we can support marriage equality even if the behavior associated with that marriage is contrary to what we believe the Bible or other sacred books to teach. To put it bluntly, we can do this as born-again Evangelicals because we live in a country founded on Constitutional protections for equality under the law. Moreover, there is no sin in giving respect and honor to that principle."
EME also made the claim this week that "three prominent Christian publications" refused to run an ad by the organization that included the text: It's time for a new evangelical conversation about civil marriage equality. The ad can be seen below.
A representative of EME did not reply to questions asked by CP via email prior to publication of this article.