"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Tuesday, July 27, 2004 I am continually grateful to serve in a diocese and on a diocesan staff where George Wayne Smith is the bishop. This editorial he wrote for this morning's St. Louis Post Dispatch about Amendment 2, ("Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman?"), which is coming up for a vote a week from today in Missouri, is one of many examples why.
This was part of a pro/con editorial spread. If you're interested in reading the "pro" side (by Vicky Hartzler of the Coalition to Protect Marriage in Missouri), click here
Here is what Bishop Smith wrote:
AMENDMENT 2: Commitment, not an amendment, will make marriage stronger By GEORGE WAYNE SMITH
I believe in the sanctity of marriage and its ability to let two people discover God's love in their shared life. I believe that marriage is both hard work and an unearned gift, that it comes to two people for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. I believe that marriage is, by definition, a lifelong commitment between husband and wife.
I have said, countless times, the words from my church's marriage rite, telling all hearers that this holy union between husband and wife "is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord." I believe these words.
I am married and the father of children, and I am mindful of the covenant relationship I have with my beloved as part of God's claim on my life and my joy.
I also know that the dominant culture surrounding us does precious little to support married persons in their vocation. I cannot believe, however, that amending Missouri's constitution will fix what ails us when it comes to the legacy of marriage.
The impetus to vote "yes" on Amendment 2 next week may well come from a desire to "do something" for the sake of marriage. But it might be more effective to do things that are, in truth, both more ordinary and more demanding: Spend more time with spouse and family; build networks of support for married people in faith communities and extended families and neighborhoods; dig deeper into the traditions of faith - the disciplines and the feasting alike; practice living openhandedly with one another and in all things, for God's sake.
All things considered, it is easier just to vote "yes" on a referendum. I am arguing, instead, for the hard work marriage demands of us all.
I also would be remiss if I did not mention two dire circumstances surrounding this proposal:
First, the body politic receives no good fortune in the opportunity to cast a vote on Amendment 2. Human sexuality has become a wedge issue in American society, used deftly at times by those on both sides of the issue. Forcing a "yes" or "no" vote divides us even further.
I write as someone whose church has faced divisions in the aftermath of a vote on human sexuality one year ago. I am not eager to vote one more time on this matter, but I am even less eager to give in to the power of a wedge issue.
There is also the witness given by gay and lesbian persons in our communities and by gay and lesbian believers in my own church. The prospect of Amendment 2 leaves them with foreboding. It gives them a message of unwelcome in their own neighborhoods. It makes some feel marginally less safe; others, considerably less safe.
They hear that Amendment 2 is supposed somehow to protect marriage; they know, however, that it is really about them. A few have received hateful messages in the mail or on the phone on in person over these past weeks; they have never heard such things around here before. I ask you to consider whether this is what we want in a place we rightly love.
I am in favor of marriage. Supporting marriage, however, takes more than a tick on the ballot. Let us not allow wedge politics to define what is essentially a matter of the heart and a costly commitment. Polarizing the electorate in this matter is hardly helpful - and the politics of polarization turn dangerous whenever the language of hate becomes permissible.
I fervently ask you to support married persons in their vocation. I ask you, with equal fervor, to eschew hatred and vote against Amendment 2.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."