Christian Leaders Unite to Defeat Marriage Amendment

Updated: 10/12/2012 7:56 AM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

It's a political issue that has galvanized Minnesota's religious communities like no other.

On Thursday, dozens of clergy members who oppose the state constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to a man and a woman spent the day making phone calls. They're seeking support from other Christian leaders across the state.

They gathered early, at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in St. Paul, and started dialing. By early afternoon, they say they'd made more than 600 calls. According to Rev. Robyn Provis of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, "This is about being willing to publicly witness against the marriage amendment."

There were Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, Episcopalians and even Baptists--calling and being called. "We're calling them to give them support, suggestions, ideas, thoughts, and to make it feel like a community of people," said Rev. Grant Stevenson, the pastor of St. Matthew's.

Missing from the phone banks though: Catholic clergy. Few Catholic priests in the Twin Cities have publicly broken ranks with the church to oppose the amendment. "There are many, many priests who, for obvious reasons, are much more quiet about this amendment," Stevenson said.

But then there's Father Mike Tegeder. "I feel I have to speak," he said. Tegeder is the pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in St. Paul. He says he's willing to risk the wrath of his church by standing up and opposing the amendment for two main reasons: first, to support gays and lesbians. "They want to live in a committed and stable relationship," he explained. "I think that's a blessing."

And second, he says he wants to protect what he contends is the state constitution's true purpose. "Usually the constitution is seen as a place where we have our rights protected, not where we have our rights limited," he said.

While Rev. Tegeder might be a lone public voice of dissent among Catholic priests in the Twin Cities, he believes a great many other priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will privately vote no.

"It would be about 50 percent," he predicted.

Jason Adkins, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, an organization supporting the amendment, responded, "That's absolutely not true. At least 80 percent of clergy are with us and voting yes."

Obviously there is also divisiveness among clergy leaders in the other Christian denominations. In the Catholic church though, most leaders stand strong and unified (at least publicly) with their belief marriage should remain between a man and a woman.

In a statement today, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said, in part, "The archbishop asked his priests to fulfill their priestly duties on the matter, and to avoid creating confusion through public disagreement."

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com