Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer was fired by his parish after he performed a same-sex “marriage” of two men in late August. The “wedding” was not performed at his church. Rev. Smeltzer was the pastor of a Church of the Brethren parish in State College, Pennsylvania. In an interview with the Centre Daily Times, and published on September 23, 2013, (available here: http://www.centredaily.com/2013/09/23/3804042/centre-county-pastor-fired-after.html ), Rev. Smeltzer declined to identify which parish fired him. However, Pastor Smeltzer did confirm that he married Joseph Davis and Gregory Scalzo on August 19 at the home of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, who is a proponent of same-sex “marriage.” The newlyweds received a “marriage” license in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes began issuing them in July. Presently, the issuance of Pennsylvania marriage licenses to same sex couples is illegal, and a court in September prohibited Register Hanes from issuing any more “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples.
On the day of the Davis-Scalzo “wedding,” Rev. Smeltzer issued a statement in which he said that he supports marriage equality, and that the men “are very much in love and obviously committed to each other.” So, did Rev. Smeltzer deserve to be fired? He obviously was willing to stand by his values, but there is also an important matter of abiding by an employer’s rules as well. The Lord Jesus, teaching in Matthew 19: 4-6 stated the following:
Haven’t you read, he replied, that at the beginning the Creator ”made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.
I am unaware of any other definition of marriage in the Bible and Christian tradition. Even today in the United States, a majority of Christian churches continue to support a biblical view of marriage, and oppose same-sex “marriages.” Thus, it should not be surprising that Rev. Smeltzer was fired by his church for his actions. While many people believe that the United States Constitution calls for a separation of church and state (it actually does not), Rev. Smeltzer’s termination should remind us that we can expect far more interference by the state with churches as lawsuits for unfair dismissal are brought by clergy, who are supported by governmental entities. Mayor Goreham said she considers same-sex marriage a matter of “democracy and equality and rights. [Rev. Smeltzer is] acting on his belief and the church is acting on theirs. I respect him very much and wish him well. I’m sad that the congregation felt they had to do that and separate ways.” Yes, it is sad at many levels, isn’t it, Mayor Goreham.