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Friday, March 24, 2006

ELCA St. Paul Synod Bishop Peter Rogness weighs in on Bachmann Amendment

From today's St. Paul Pioneer Press

Bishop: Set aside marriage legislation
Bill won't protect heterosexual pacts, Rogness says
Pioneer Press

The bishop of the largest denomination of Lutherans in the St. Paul area said Thursday that Minnesota lawmakers should not send forward a proposed constitutional marriage amendment because it would hinder the civil rights of gay and lesbian people and do nothing to protect heterosexual marriage.

"I encourage lawmakers to set this ill-advised legislation aside,'' Bishop Peter Rogness wrote in an e-mail letter to ministers in the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"A referendum is both an abrogation of the responsibility of lawmakers to attend to the business of making fair and just laws, and a giving in to the emotion of the moment.'

The proposal being debated in the Legislature would put a referendum before Minnesota voters asking them to approve a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

The ELCA's St. Paul Area Synod hasn't taken action on the proposed legislation. The state's Roman Catholic bishops have endorsed the proposed amendment and mobilized parishioners to petition their lawmakers to support it. Pastors of several other Protestant churches also have rallied their members to push for the amendment, even as others have denounced it.

Rogness wrote that "the Christian tradition has always understood marriage as a life-long relationship between a man and a woman."

But, he wrote, some people are drawn into lifelong, intimate relationships with those of the same gender, which should not threaten heterosexual marriage.
"Not a single male/female marriage will be strengthened by the proposed amendment," Rogness wrote. "Nothing in society is made unstable by a gay couple who decides to spend their lives together."

Rogness stressed that marriage needs "all the bolstering it can get," citing couples ill-prepared for marriage, the travails of divorce, and the importance of stable families and mature relationships.

"Though the proposed legislation claims to address these concerns, in fact it does no such thing," he wrote.

The ELCA, more theologically liberal than Lutheran counterparts in the Missouri or Wisconsin Synod churches, nonetheless has grappled internally with its understanding of gay and lesbian issues, including the unions of homosexual couples and the ordination of those in same-gender relationships.

Rather than "give in to the anxiety of this cultural moment," Rogness wrote, he asked that religious teaching be left to religious groups and civil legislation be left to civil groups.

The ELCA's Minneapolis Area Synod last year went on record opposing a marriage amendment.