Archbishop Nienstedt joins ecumenical gathering at State Capitol
Archbishop John Nienstedt joined 40 clergy and faith leaders on the steps of the State Capitol Sept. 18 in an ecumenical show of support for the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.
Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota, a network of evangelical churches, introduced the archbishop as well as pastors and church leaders from different denominations, ethnicities and communities, who each gave statements affirming their support for the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, and encouraging their congregations to vote “yes” on the amendment.
“Those of us leaders here today are united in our belief in the authority of the Bible,” Nelson said in his introductory statement. “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 commitment between a man and a woman. Marriage bonds a mother and father to children born from their union and creates a stable and loving family. This is the essential public purpose of marriage and the reason why we support the marriage amendment.”
The archbishop addressed the press conference next, stating that it is rare to hear in discussions of the marriage amendment that it is meant to be a positive affirmation of both the beauty and importance of this fundamental union for society and for the children born of that union. That positive affirmation is not intended to be hurtful or discriminatory to anyone, he said.
“Our understanding of marriage between a man and a woman predates any government, or in fact, any religious denomination. Just so, it is not an attempt to force religious understanding of marriage on society as there can be only one truth about the human person. That truth is founded in both the Bible and the natural law, and we as clergy come here to proclaim this reality today.”
The Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention and pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, said he felt it was incumbent to state clearly their position “given the president’s and the Democratic Party’s decision to make same-sex marriage part of their major platform.”
“We believe that as God defines marriage between a man and a woman, we stand with the Word of God,” he said. “It saddens me that people are perplexed and troubled by an initiative like this, and I am just as perplexed as to how we got so far away from the Word of God that we cannot hear. It’s a wake-up call for all you Christians who are standing in the background. The time is now for you to make a decision, and I stand and say clearly, vote “yes.”
The Rev. Sergio Amezcua of Brooklyn Park Evangelical Free Church affirmed that this is not a political case, but a moral and spiritual case.
“We are called to show love and mercy, but we cannot dishonor God by doing it. We who follow God are here representing the Gospel of Jesus, and our duty is to protect the institutions that God put in the Word,” he said.
A statement from the Rev. Don Fondow, president of the Minnesota North District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, read in part, “The Minnesota Marriage Amendment can help protect that which God has established and designed to be the foundation for society and the continuation of the human race. May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and the precious gift that it is to society.”
Also presented were statements by Bishop Fred Willis Washington, head of the Minnesota jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple, representing the Minnesota-Wisconsin district council of Pentecostal churches, and the Rev. Paul Wesche, president of the Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association.
Addressing the issue of equal rights, Rev. Troy Dobbs, senior pastor of Grace Church in Eden Prairie, said people with same-sex attraction should have, and do have, the same civil rights as everyone else. But this is not about equal rights, he added, it’s about certain people getting extra rights to redefine something that has been defined biblically, historically and sociologically.
“None of us can redefine set societal understandings and definitions according to our desires without it adversely impacting everyone else,” he said. “Ultimately if marriage is redefined, the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ and ‘father’ will be redefined as well. Men and women provide unique gifts to each other and their children. They are not interchangeable, so I’m going to vote ‘yes’ and I encourage my congregation to do so as well because I believe that marriages need to be strengthened, not redefined.”