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Four Episcopal bishops speak out against Proposal 2
Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. - The bishops of Michigan's four Episcopal Dioceses are speaking out against a measure aimed at changing the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Revs. Robert Gepert, Wendell Gibbs, James Kelsey and Ed Leidel said last week they are committed to justice for all citizens of the state.

"Constitutional amendments should not restrict the rights of anyone to receive the benefits and protections afforded the rest of the population," they said in a statement.

Proposal 2 would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the state constitution. Same-sex marriage already is outlawed in Michigan, but supporters of the ban want stronger language put in the state constitution to better prevent judges or lawmakers from changing the law.

Michael Gibson-Faith of the American Friends Service Committee, an Ann Arbor-based Quaker group that put out the statement signed by the bishops, said the bishops were not speaking for their dioceses.

A number of other churches and religious groups support the gay marriage amendment.

The Catholic church has donated about half of the $1 million raised by the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage campaign, which supports Proposal 2. All Catholic dioceses in Michigan have contributed, ranging from $270,000 from the Archdiocese of Detroit to $20,000 from the Diocese of Marquette.

Religious Coalition for a Fair Michigan, http://www.afsc-fan.org/rcfm.htmPastor: Anti-gay marriage referendum's success not certain
The Associated Press

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — At least one poll shows solid support among Michigan residents for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, but a clergyman says that doesn't guarantee voters will endorse the idea.

The state Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in Michigan as a union between one man and one woman should appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Opponents including the Rev. Doug Van Doren, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, fear the amendment will be used to take away benefits for same-sex partners at state universities or even private firms.

"We are talking real people, real families that would be affected by this," he said.
More than 80 west Michigan clergy have signed a statement opposing the measure, Van Doren told The Grand Rapids Press for a story published Saturday. "People like to paint Michigan and particularly west Michigan as far more reactionary than it is," he said. "I think there is a good chance it will not pass."

"This is not a debate—this is about addressing and redressing crimes," said Yoshii. "This is about supporting people who are victims of crime, fighting for their civil rights and telling them ‘you are not alone, we are with you under God."
Rev. Michael Yoshii of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda

"When the whole family affirmed and celebrated her coming out, there was an amazing transformation in my daughter—she became affectionate, outgoing, confident," said Hanaoka. "This is what the faith is supposed to do. If we don't, then the church is irrelevant."
Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, executive director of the San Francisco United Methodist Mission and pastor of the Calvary United Methodist Church in San Francisco, relating a personal story about his daughter coming out as a lesbian over an email. Hanaoka, who lives in Sacramento, immediately drove to his daughter's home in San Francisco to give her a hug.

Open Letter To The U.S. Congress
From Faith Communities

June 11, 2004
Dear Representative:
As leaders representing many of the diverse perspectives on religion in our nation, we are writing to urge you to oppose passage of H. J. Res. 56/S. J. Res. 26, the "Federal Marriage Amendment."
Although we have differing opinions on rights for same-sex couples, we believe the Federal Marriage Amendment reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation's many religious traditions. It should be rejected.

Few decisions by religious bodies are more central than who can take part in important religious rituals or services, including marriage. Fortunately, the Constitution bars any court or legislature from requiring any religious institution or person to perform marriage ceremonies for anyone. Indeed, the Constitution protects houses of worship in their freedom to limit marriages on whatever theological grounds they choose. The First Amendment already protects religious organizations from governmental interference in such matters, and constitutional definitions of marriage therefore are unnecessary.

Regardless of judicial and legislative decisions defining the legal rights of gay couples, religious marriage will justly remain the prerogative of individual faith traditions in accordance with their doctrinal beliefs. And this is as it should be. It is not the task of our government and elected representatives to enshrine in our laws the religious point of view of any one faith. Rather, our government should dedicate itself to protecting the rights of all citizens and all faiths.

For over two hundred years, the Constitution has had no provision on marriage, the matter being left to the states and the teachings of various religious groups. Our nation's founders adopted the First Amendment precisely because they foresaw the dangers posed by allowing government to have control over religious decisions. The religious freedom protected by the First Amendment has allowed religious practice and pluralism to flourish. Respecting the rights of those in the faith community who deem sacred text consistent with the blessing of same-sex relationships protects and ensures that freedom.

We are particularly concerned that this proposal to amend the Constitution would, for the first time, restrict the civil rights of millions of Americans. That concern alone merits rejection of the Federal Marriage Amendment. We strongly believe that Congress must continue to protect the nation's fundamental religious freedoms and continue to protect our nation's bedrock principle of respecting religious pluralism. Congress should soundly reject any attempt to enshrine into the Constitution a particular religious viewpoint on a matter of such fundamental religious importance.

Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee (Quaker)
American Jewish Committee
Anti-Defamation League
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Christians for Justice Action
Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)
Episcopal Church, USA
Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker)
Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh)
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Loretto Women's Network (LWN) (Catholic Order)
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
National Conference for Community and Justice
National Council of Jewish Women
National Sikh Center
Metropolitan Community Churches
Presbyterian Church (USA), Washington Office
Protestant Justice Action
Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE)
The Interfaith Alliance
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries
Women of Reform Judaism

"Then hugs. And kisses. Love was being expressed. Love that finally had found a tiny crack from which to shine."
Rev. Ed Evans is the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Vancouver, WA, commenting on same-sex marriage ceremonies he was performing in Multnomah County, OR.

"Each individual's journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone, others in loving relationships - maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has many shapes and colors and is not finite. It can not be measured or defined in terms of sexual orientation."
From the Statement of Affirmation and Reconciliation by the Quaker meeting in Aotearoa.

Divorced Christians: all of the sin, none of the stigma
This summer, I officially become an elder in my church. I consider it an honor and a privilege, but what makes my news noteworthy is that it almost certainly would not be happening if I were gay. Instead, I belong to a group judged more impure by Jesus and repeatedly condemned in the Old Testament: divorced and remarried.

I can't be sure how this will be reckoned with in the hereafter. On earth, though, I don't know anybody who has a problem with what the Bible plainly describes as my blatant and ongoing impurity. No one has tried to "reprogram" me. I blend in among the many other divorced parishioners and deacons and elders and pastors in Kentucky and across the country. No one says I'm pushing the "divorcé agenda" or calls mine an alternative lifestyle.

However, we divorcees are much more dangerous and on more damnable Biblical turf than homosexuals, who were never singled out for scorn by Jesus. The fact that no one stigmatizes divorcés and remarried couples while using the Bible to push constitutional amendments and other efforts to isolate and limit the rights of gay people is a matter of convenience, not strict Christian living.

In the days ahead, as we read more and more about Kentucky's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and the continued debate from Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail, its proponents who say they stand on high religious ground should not be heard without the loud and ugly and clanging tones of Christian hypocrisy that must go with their message.

If churchfolk who take the Bible literally are going to rally for something, there are more present and ominous targets than homosexuality or gay marriage.

They could start with divorce, clearly a major no-no in the Old Testament and also condemned by Jesus in three of the four Gospels. Why aren't the same anti-gay Christians pushing to make divorce illegal? If that's too tough a position to take, then start a campaign to say it won't be sanctioned by the church — that people who get divorces can't become pastors or hold leadership positions in the church at the very least.

After that, go after remarriage, which the Old Testament and Jesus again say can only happen between a man whose spouse commits adultery and a virgin female. Outlaw any other remarriage. Again, a baby step would be for churches to isolate and stigmatize those within their own ranks who defy this clear Biblical principle.

I'd advise Protestant churches who want to spread these core Biblical principles not to follow the lead of the Catholic church, which still technically adheres to these kind of divorce and remarriage codes. Their system has led to a bureaucracy which administers about 60,000 annulments of marriages — technically erasing many long unions which produced children — each year. (According to the group Save Our Sacrament, the U.S. accounts for about 80 percent of Catholic annulments worldwide.)

If Christians are going to stand up for strict beliefs, we shouldn't start by finding loopholes. We also shouldn't be preaching righteousness by demonizing others while ignoring the huge targets on our own backs.

There's plenty of fertile ground for reshaping our nation to become more in line with Biblical priorities, if that's what people really want.

From the Ten Commandments, let's take back the Sabbath. Close businesses on Sunday. Stop watching the NFL on Sunday. (There's still Monday night.) Give up the Sunday tee time and spend the day at church or in your home working on your spiritual handicaps.

Lacking any passion to discomfort ourselves while acting to impose religious and legal limits on our homosexual brothers and sisters creates the kind of hypocrisy and ugly self-righteousness that I think threatens organized religion far more than any advance from what some church people like to call "secular" culture.

Lest any Christians think that being prepared to sideline divorcees, gays, football fans, and those whose lifestyles force people to work on Sundays are the toughest ways the Bible crashes head-on with modern life, I direct you to the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus and an amazing obstacle course of moral purity — execution for women who have premarital or extramarital sex, no military service for newlyweds, no interest on loans except to foreigners, and more. After that, once you've decided what to do about supporting animal sacrifice and slavery, reread Jesus' calls for Christians to live in utter poverty and self-sacrifice.

Be sure to linger over the familiar story about the sinless person throwing the first stone before you decide what your church and your state should stand for — or what to make of a sinful elder who is proud of his life and eager for the chance to help build a church that reaches out to everyone with the acceptance, respect and decency we all want for ourselves.

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