Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Every ordained minister shall speak publicly to the world . . ."

We thought we’d share this “note from the pastor” message from Rev. Tim Bernard of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Saint Paul. We appreciate the tone it sets and how it speaks clearly and directly about why Lutheran congregations and clergy can and should respond to proposed state legislation.

Writing in Resurrection's newsletter, Pastor Bernard speaks to two proposed amendments to the Minnesota state constitution: the anti-marriage amendment, which would place a ban on marriage between same-gender couples in the state constitution; and the voter ID amendment, which would require a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in Minnesota. Pastor Bernard writes:

Explicit in the call of every pastor rostered in the ELCA are the words: “Every ordained minister shall speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God's love for the world.” It is listed in every ELCA congregation’s constitution. As a requirement from the ELCA, it is non-negotiable. I mention that because I recently joined a gathering of rabbis, priests, imams, and pastors, all of whom are united in opposing the marriage amendment in Minnesota. There are many reasons this amendment doesn’t make sense, but for me it is one of faith. 

The New Testament clearly articulates that God is love (Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8). Love cannot be dissected, divided, or conditional. It is whole, complete, and inclusive. 

We all know that the marriage relationship is complex. I talk with couples at length about communication, compatibility, companionship, children, finances, sexuality, problem solving, their families of origin, hopes and dreams for the future, careers, faith, religious backgrounds, and more. When a couple stands before God and vows to love the other, they do so because they want God to bless the whole of their relationship, not just their genitals. The marriage amendment makes a mockery of marriage when it assumes that the most important thing about a marriage is our sexuality. It isn’t. Sexuality is a part of the relationship, yes, but there is so much more to marriage than that.

As for the Voter ID Amendment [which would require a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in Minnesota], we as a church need to oppose this as well. It is estimated that the states that have passed such restrictive amendments will disenfranchise about 20 million voters; voters who do not have a driver’s license (too poor, disabled, or old to drive), nor a passport (many whom cannot afford to travel outside of our country anyway). These people would incur a cost and a hurdle in order to vote. Most will be turned away at the polls.

In a five-year period during the Bush administration, when 196 million votes were cast in elections, there were 86 cases of voter fraud. Not 86,000. Just 86. That is 0.00004%. The Voter ID Amendment could disenfranchise nearly 10% of the voting public, using the 20 million-voter estimate.

I am called to stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed; call for justice and proclaim God’s love for the world. Please join me in voting No on the Marriage Amendment and No on the Voter ID Amendment? It is a matter of faith.