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published: 3/5/05
updated: 5/3/13

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Comparison of Christian Denominations' Ethical Views



This chart compares the similarities and differences between the views of major Christian denominations on social and ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, sexuality and war. Please note that the brief summaries and excerpts provided here do not reflect all individuals or churches in each denomination. In fact, most denominations incorporate liberal and conservative branches that take quite different positions on these issues. However, the summaries provided here are believed to represent the majority view and are taken from official statements where available. Sources are referenced by a linked

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Sexuality
Methodist/ Wesleyan
Sexuality in General "Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul... Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity." (CCC 2332-33) "The Church teaches that human sexuality is a divinely given dimension of humanlife that finds its fulfillment in the marital relationship." (GOAA) "Human sexuality was created good for the purposes of expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure." (ELCA)   "We recognize that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons." (UMC)

"Man is created in the image of God and human sexuality reflects that image in terms of intimate love, communication, fellowship, subordination of the self to the larger whole, and fulfillment." (WC)
 
Premarital sex "Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality." (CCC 2353, see also CCC 2391) Sinful. "The only appropriate and morally fitting place for the exercise of sexual relations, according to the teachings of the Church, is marriage." (GOAA) Discouraged. Casual sex is sinful. (ELCA)   "Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are only clearly affirmed in the marriage bond." (UMC)

Sinful. (WC)
 




Adultery A sin and an injustice to the partner and institution of marriage. (CCC 2381) Sinful. (GOAA) "Adultery is sinful because it breaks the trust between two people, disrupts their bond of marriage, and violates the partner." (ELCA)   Sinful. (WC)  
Homosexual Behavior "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.... This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." (CCC 2357-59) "The Orthodox Church believes that homosexuality should be treated by religion as a sinful failure.... In full confidentiality the Orthodox Church cares and provides pastorally for homosexuals in the belief that no sinner who has failed himself and God should be allowed to deteriorate morally and spiritually." (GOAA) Opposed. (LCMS)

Currently no policy, but all single members, "including those who understand themselves to be homosexual, are expected to abstain from sexual relationships." (ELCA)
Opposed, but recognize complexity of issue. (PCUSA; News, 2004) "We do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." (UMC)

"The practice of homosexuality is a sin, and... even the propensity toward homosexuality is out of step with both the order of creation and the will of God." (WC)
Undecided. (Int'l Anglican Communion) (CofE)

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Marriage
Methodist/ Wesleyan
View of Marriage "The married couple forms the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws... Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh." (CCC 2354) "Marriage is one of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church....The fist marriage of a man and a woman is honored by the Church with a richly symbolic service that eloquently speaks to everyone regarding the married state." (GOAA) "Marriage is a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman. In marriage, two persons become "one flesh"... a personal and sexual union that embodies God's loving purpose to create and enrich life." (ELCA)   "Marriage is a lifelong relationship and a covenant union made in the sight of God, taking priority over all other human relationships." (WC)  
Same-Sex Marriage Opposed. (CCC 2357-59) Opposed. Opposed. (LCMS)

No policy - study in progress. (ELCA)
Opposed. (PCUSA) Opposed. (WC) CofE - opposed
Divorce Not permitted, except if due to abandonment. Separation may be permitted in certain circumstances. (CCC 2382-86) Opposed, but sometimes granted. "The Church grants "ecclesiastical divorces" on the basis of the exception given by Christ to his general prohibition of the practice.... the Orthodox Church also recognizes that sometimes the spiritual well-being of Christians caught in a broken and essentially nonexistent marriage justifies a divorce." (GOAA) Tragic, but sometimes the best option. (ELCA)   Accepted as a "regrettable alternative." (UMC)

Opposed except in cases of "sexual sin of the spouse such as adultery, homosexual behavior, bestiality, or incest." (WC)
 
Remarriage Not permitted except in the case of death of the first spouse or annulment of the first marriage granted by the Church. "Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture [divorce]: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery." (CCC 2384) If a previous marriage ended due to death or ecclesiastical divorce, "the church will permit up to, but not more than, three marriages for any Orthodox Christian. If both partners are entering a second or third marriage, another form of the marriage ceremony is conducted, much more subdued and penitential in character. " (GOAA) Accepted. "Remarriage can be an opportunity to use wisdom gained from the past to create a new relationship of loving commitment and joy." (ELCA)   Accepted. (UMC)  

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Gender
Methodist/ Wesleyan
Women in Church Leadership Opposed "The Orthodox are adamantly opposed to the ordination of women as liturgical clergy.." However, women may obtain theological degrees and "reconstitution of the ancient order of deaconesses" is being discussed. (GOAA) Accepted. (ELCA)

Opposed. (LCMS)
Accepted. (PCUSA) Accepted. (UMC)

Accepted. (ECUSA)

Varies. (CofE)

Gender Roles in Marriage         "We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage." (UMC)

"While we understand there are differing interpretations among us of the Bible’s teachings on the role of the husband and wife in the home, we totally reject any exercise of abuse by one spouse of another by twisting these scriptures out of context." (WC)
 

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Life & Death
Methodist/ Wesleyan
Abortion Opposed. (Pope) Opposed. (GOAA) Strongly discouraged. "An option only of last resort." (ELCA) PCUSA - discouraged but accepted; dialogue encouraged Discouraged, but allowed in some cases. (UMC)

Opposed. "We believe that abortion is the taking of human life." (WC)
CofE - opposed
Contraception Opposed, except for natural methods. (CCC 2366-79) Historically opposed, and still opposed by some, but accepted by others (GOAA) "for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health." (GOAA)   Accepted   CofE - accepted
Euthanasia Opposed. (Pope) Opposed. (GOAA) Opposed. "Deliberately destroying life created in the image of God is contrary to our Christian conscience... we also recognize that responsible health care professionals struggle to choose the lesser evil in ambiguous borderline situations." (ELCA)   Opposed. (WC) CofE - opposed
Removal of Life Support   Accepted. (GOAA) Accepted. (ELCA)   Accepted. (WC)  
Suicide Opposed. (Pope) "The most serious kind of murder, because there is no opportunity for repentance. The canons and practice of the Church thus prohibit a Church burial to a person who has committed suicide. However, if it can be shown that the person who has committed suicide was not mentally sound, then... the burial can be conducted by the Church." (GOAA) Opposed. "Our efforts to prevent suicide grow out of our obligation to protect and promote life, our hope in God amid suffering and adversity, and our love for our troubled neighbor." (ELCA)   Sinful, and believers who commit suicide will only be saved if they were irrational at the time. (WC)  
Death Penalty "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." However, "the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (CCC 2267)   Accepted, with cautions. (ELCA) PCUSA - opposed Accepted. "Should be reserved for those crimes committed in serious circumstances which are clearly defined by law and administered by justice." (WC) CofE - opposed
War "Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm." (CCC 2265)   Nonviolent alternatives strongly encouraged, but war may sometimes be the lesser evil. (ELCA)   WC "urges that persons and nations seek by every legitimate means to avoid armed conflict among the peoples and nations of the world."  
Military Service     Accepted. (ELCA)   Some accept, some oppose. (WC)  
Drug & Alcohol Use   "The use of stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens for any purpose other than the restoration of health or the alleviation of abnormal pain, when properly and legitimately prescribed by a physician, is condemned." (GOAA) Excessive drinking is a kind of indirect suicide, and thus is morally wrong. (GOAA) Moderate alcohol use accepted. (ELCA)   Opposed. (WC) CofE - moderate alcohol use accepted
Tobacco Use   Excessive smoking is a kind of indirect suicide, and thus is morally wrong. (GOAA) Should be avoided. "Each of us has responsibility to be a good steward of his or her own health out of thankfulness for the gift of life and in order to serve God and the neighbor." (ELCA)   Opposed. (WC)  
Methodist/ Wesleyan


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