|SAINT PAUL — A group of pastors and religious leaders gathered last month to demonstrate their united support for the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and for the traditional view of marriage. The leaders from Pentecostal, Evangelical, African American, Catholic and Orthodox faith traditions met on the steps of the Capitol and urged their followers—and others—to support what they believe is God’s design for marriage.
With only a month to go before Minnesotans head to the ballot box, polls continue to show a fairly narrow lead for traditional marriage supporters. A KSTP/Survey USA poll released last month found 50 percent in favor of the amendment while 43 percent are opposed and 8 percent are undecided. A similar poll conducted in July saw 52 percent in favor of the amendment while 37 percent were opposed, with 6 percent undecided and 5 percent saying they were not voting. Other recent polls have shown similar results.
Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota, led the clergy gathering and introduced the speakers, saying that they “are united in our belief in the authority of the Bible. From the opening of the Bible in Genesis 2 to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19, marriage is presented by God as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. This gift of marriage is given us by God to create a loving and secure bond between husband and wife, where they can share the deepest emotions and the most joyful pleasures of physical intimacy.”
That theme carried throughout the event, which included the Rev. John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis; the Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention and pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis; the Rev. Troy Dobbs, pastor of Grace Church in Eden Prairie; the Rev. Sergio Amezucua of Brooklyn Park Evangelical Free Church; Bishop Richard Howell, pastor of Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis; and many others.
To stress the importance and uniqueness of the gathering of multiple faith traditions, McAfee said he could not have foreseen his attendance at this event 12 months ago.
“If you were to ask me perhaps a year ago, would I be standing on the steps in union with some of the brothers and sisters behind me, I would have suggested that you are in fact crazy for the simple reason that we differ on so many things when it comes to social justice,” he said.
Yet he felt it necessary to attend in order to proclaim his position on the Marriage Amendment. While doing so, he also wondered publicly how the nation has strayed from the Word of God, and he wanted to encourage Christians to make a stand.
“It saddens me that as we stand here that people are perhaps perplexed and troubled by an initiative like this, and I am just as perplexed as to how did we get so far away from the Word of God?” he said. “How did we move ourselves so far away from God that we cannot hear? It is a wake-up call for those of you Christians who are standing on the foray, standing on the background, you are not hot nor are you cold. The time is now for you to make a decision, and I stand with the Word of God and I stand and say clearly, vote yes.”
Following the event, a briefing was held in the Capitol for pastors and other leaders to interact and to encourage one another.
Several of the speakers pointed out that their involvement in the Marriage Amendment is not a political issue; rather, it’s a spiritual and moral issue that is being engaged in the public—or political—realm.
“Today our standards are measured by the Word of God, not by the politics of the day,” said Howell. “God’s Word is non-negotiable. God’s Word is honorable, and God’s Word remains unchanged. God’s Word clearly defines marriage as one man and one woman without exception, politics or a vote.”
Dobbs argued that redefining marriage would be a “scriptural accommodation.”
“The Scriptures affirm God is both the designer and definer of marriage,” he said. “And God has established marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Three thousand years of civilized history affirms this arrangement as well. So to redefine marriage is not a meaningless cultural alteration but rather a scriptural accommodation that undermines God’s vision and intent for marriage.”
Statements of support were also read from Church of God in Christ representatives and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
Asked after the event what it would mean for pastors if the amendment failed, Nelson said it would ultimately impact religious liberty.
“One of the concerns if the Marriage Amendment doesn’t pass and we go down the path of marriage being redefined is that as pastors and clergy we could lose our religious freedom to be able to speak openly about what we believe the Bible says,” he said. “Certainly we’re concerned in the future that our religious liberties will be infringed upon.”
ACTIONPOINT: For more information on the Marriage Amendment, visit www.minnesotaformarriage.com.