Professor Redefines LGBT Marriage

Judy Park

Mark D. Jordan, Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, speaks about same sex marriage and Christian sexual ethics yesterday as part of Memorial Church’s “What’s Sex Got To Do With It?” series.

Lent is a time for penance in the Christian tradition, but Divinity School Professor Mark D. Jordan said during his talk “Same-Sex Marriage and the Prospects for Christian Ethics” that it could also be a time for reexamination and renewed hope.

“What better time to talk about sex in church than Lent?” he joked.

Jordan’s talk at Memorial Church last night centered around his argument that the concept of Christian marriage needs to be rethought.

According to Jordan, many aspects of traditional wedding rituals are not necessarily religious.

“We must make serious reflections on what the church accomplishes in the blessing of all marriages, not only same-sex marriages,” he said.


Jordan added that he was surprised by the number of LGBT couples who had approached local churches to ask for their union to be blessed.

“It’s astonishing that same-sex couples still come forth to ask for blessing of their intimate unions without expecting that they will get legal benefits,” he said. “They come just in order to be blessed.”

But Jordan said that he has also spoken to many same-sex couples who were suspicious of churches and of the institution of marriage as a whole.

According to Jordan, the solution was not necessarily to bless all couples, but to reconsider the institution of marriage.

“When it comes to same-sex marriage, we must make a candid and critical examination of the theoretical basis for any Christian marriage,” he said.

Jordan’s talk marked the final event in the fifth annual Lenten Series, a series of talks organized as a combined effort of Memorial Church and the Episcopal Chaplaincy.

“Undergrads don’t often get to talk about sex in a religious context,” said the Reverend Jonathan C. Page, one of the program’s organizers and the Epps Fellow in Memorial Church. “Marriage is an important part of that discussion.”

Karen S. Bray, a student of feminist and queer theology at the Divinity School who has taken Jordan’s classes, said that he helps his students and others think broadly and imaginatively about where theology comes from.

“If someone wants their union to be blessed, it should be blessed,” Bray said. She added that examining where rituals such as marriage originate is the only way to move forward.

“Before we try to bless anything, we should think constructively about what presuppositions we’re bringing to the table,” she said.

Jordan concluded his talk by saying that there remains a lot of debate in the Christian community, both between denominations and individuals, on issues of same-sex marriage and sexual ethics in general.

“When Christians disagree this strongly but want to remain Christians together, we have to pray for each other,” he said.

—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at