November 8th, 2010
10:26 AM ET
Editor's Note: From CNN's Chris Welch and Jim Spellman
As more states consider whether or not to legalize gay marriage, church leaders have been forced to examine their theological position on homosexuality. They find themselves asking the question about gays and lesbians: What would Jesus do?
And they are coming to very different conclusions.
Some churches have decided to take the "hate the sin, love the sinner" approach by actively lobbying against gay marriage. Catholic leaders in Minnesota have turned to mass mailings as part of a media blitz to try to keep marriage between a man and a woman.
In Denver, an evangelical Christian pastor has split with his former church and started his own evangelical church that fully welcomes gays as worshipers and leaders.
The Rev. Mark Tidd says he does not see a discrepancy between the Bible and accepting members of the homosexual community.
"There's times when we change how we approach scripture because we observe how God is making God's self known in creation," he said. "We don't consider it a sin to be gay and we don't consider it a sin if you are gay and seek a relationship which is the only natural one you can have which would be someone of the same gender."
Lisa Crane and her husband Ryan left their more traditional evangelical church for Tidd's church, and have no plans to go back.
"Do we ever worry like, 'Oh God am I wrong about this?' and 'Am I going to get to heaven and God is going to be like – No, you weren't supposed to let the gays serve communion!'" Lisa said.
"You know, I don't think so. That doesn't jibe with the Jesus that we learned about from the Bible"
About 1,000 miles away, Gretchen Thibault hears a much different answer.
"What would Jesus do?" she wondered. "Jesus loves us, but the activity would not be appropriate. Jesus loves the sinner not the sin."
Thibault is a Roman Catholic living in Minneapolis, where the archdiocese has distributed 400,000 DVDs encouraging its members to support the idea that individuals and not judges should vote on an amendment that would define marriage between a man and woman.
Thibault agrees with the message, and feels that gay people who act on their homosexual urges should not be eligible for all of the sacraments of the Catholic church.
"Jesus would say, 'Please come to church, you're welcome in the Catholic Church but' – and it's a huge very important 'but' – 'you should not be receiving the Eucharist,'" she said.
She added that she felt the same way about heterosexuals who engage in sexual activity before marriage.
Christians like Thibault are more common than those who, like the Rev. Tidd and the Cranes, do not see a discrepancy between the teachings of Jesus Christ and homosexuality, according to professor Randel Balmer, who teaches American religious history at Columbia University.
But he added that things are slowly changing - even among Christians.
"The younger generation ... don't really care about sexual identity issues," Balmer added.
He says that, as with issues like divorce, many people of faith will find ways to incorporate gay rights into their theology.
"These people are asking the right question," Balmer said. "What would Jesus do? Would he revile these people? I don't think he would."
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.