Three recent examples of individuals and communities of faith taking a stand against Prop 8, which would eliminate the right of all to marry in California. You may find valuable keys and pressure points within these examples to help you when you talk within your own faith community, and among your faithful family, about Proposition 8.

People of faith can differ on whether they want their faith community to include same-sex marriages. No one wants the state telling religions what is a sacrament. But Prop 8 isn’t about religion — it is about the state denying rights to a minority. Proposition 8 would remove the right to marry and enshrine discrimination in the California constitution.

First, a group of Mormons has taken an important and courageous step to call out their own church’s support for Proposition 8:

Leaders of a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons on Saturday criticized their church for its efforts to ban gay marriage in California.

Olin Thomas, executive director of Affirmation, said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is using fear to sway voters. His remarks came during the group’s annual conference in Los Angeles.

[snip]

Thomas said church leaders were wrong in saying last week that failing to pass the proposition would force churches to sanction same-sex marriage and force schools to teach children to place gay and heterosexual marriages on equal footing.

Proposition 8 only effects civil marriages, won’t require changes in school curricula and is a matter of civil rights, Thomas said.

"Nothing in the issues related to Prop. 8 imposes anyone else’s morality upon any person, church or other religious institution," Thomas said.

For more on the Mormon church’s extraordinary effort to pass Proposition 8, and about their effort to enlist young Mormons, see my previous Oxdown diary here.

Second, in Fresno, Father Geoffrey Farrow has lost his parish and probably his vocation after defying church leaders to speak out from his pulpit against Proposition 8:

A week ago, Father Geoffrey Farrow stood before his Roman Catholic parishioners in Fresno and delivered a sermon that placed him squarely at odds with his church over gay marriage.

With Proposition 8 on the November ballot, and his own bishop urging Central Valley priests to support its definition of traditional marriage, Farrow told congregants he felt obligated to break "a numbing silence" about church prejudice against homosexuals.

"How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?" he asked parishioners of the St. Paul Newman Center. "I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8."

Then Farrow — who had revealed that he was gay during a television interview immediately before Mass — added a coda to his sermon.

"I know these words of truth will cost me dearly," he said. "But to withhold them . . . I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well."

On Thursday, Fresno Bishop John T. Steinbock removed Farrow, 50, as pastor of the St. Paul Newman Center, which primarily serves students and faculty at Cal State Fresno.

Father Geoff summed up his moral quandary quite succinctly:


"At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?"
he asked.

Stripped of salary and benefits, and ordered to keep away from all church communities he has served, including contact with parishioners and church members via the internet, Father Geoff now stays with friends in Los Angeles and awaits word from his bishop on his status within the Church he still loves.

Finally, all six Episcopal Dioceses in California have issued a statement urging a NO vote on Proposition 8.

“We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage,” the Bishops stated in the document signed on Sept. 10. “Rather the Christian values of monogamy, commitment, love, mutual respect and witness of monogamy are enhanced for all by providing this right to gay and straight alike.”

[snip]

“We believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation, is consistent with the best principles of our constitutional rights,” reads the statement signed by the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, the Bishop of San Diego. “We believe that this continued access promotes Jesus’ ethic of love, giving and hope.”

Visiting San Diego recently, presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori responded to questions about specific passages in the New Testament that confuse people of faith about homosexuality:

“I understand them as culturally contexted, speaking to specific circumstances that Paul, or another writer, encountered. What we understand as the mature love between two people of the same gender committed to each other in a lifelong partnership, was unimagined in the first century,” she said.

“The passages that do seem to speak to what some people say is homosexuality, I understand to be speaking to issues of abuse, power relations – a soldier and his male slave – or to things that we would probably more appropriately translate as ‘cult prostitution,’ not to the kind of relationship that we would expect of any two mature, Christian adults, whether homosexual or heterosexual.”

The California bishops acknowledge that their own church is currently struggling with whether clergy should officiate same-sex marriages, but they set that struggle apart from the right of all to civil marriage equality under the law:

Still, the California bishops said while their denomination and even they themselves remain divided on whether Episcopal clergy should officiate same-sex marriages, they are united in the belief that it would be morally wrong for voters to overturn the California Supreme Court ruling that granted same-sex couples the right to wed.

“Some of us believe it is appropriate to permit our clergy to officiate at such marriages and pronounce blessings over the union; others of us believe that we should await consent of our General Convention before permitting such actions,” they said. “Nevertheless, we are adamant that justice demands that same-sex civil marriage continue in our state and advocate voting ‘no’ on Proposition 8.”

I thought that was a particularly eloquent description of the difference spheres — state and church — and that you might find it helpful in discussing marriage equality within your own community. No one thinks anyone should be able to tell a religion what to do about same-sex marriage; that’s their own business, and they will work it out in their own time and in their own way.

But civil marriage equality is separate and apart from religion. These heartfelt expressions from the faithful helped me understand that better, and I hope they are of use to you as well.

Please make as generous donation to No On Prop 8 as you can afford today.

Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge

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