Duke was my mentor in the candidacy process and has been there to walk me through ministry when I have needed it in my ten year career. He helped ordained me and continues his wise counsel through this article in the Greensboro District Newsletter. I have struggled to put theological backing to my thoughts and feelings on the Amendment NC will vote on when the come to the polls on May 8th. Duke does a great job. If you click on the title you can find other resources for research on this topic.
John Wesley used to say he knew only one kind of holiness and that was “Social Holiness” meaning that our relationship with God led to how we related to others. This naturally leads us over into politics which deals with how we relate to one another. Now I have always believed in the separation of church & state, which means to me the pulpit is no place to tell people who to vote for. God has a way of working through folks who would not be of my persuasion. Separation of church & state does not mean however that we don’t speak on social issues from our faith perspective. The founders saw the church’s role as being the conscience of the state. We have a big conscience issue coming up.
May 8th is a big day in North Carolina. The citizens of North Carolina will be voting on a Constitutional Amendment that declares traditional marriage as the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in North Carolina. That sounds like an easy decision, doesn’t it? Recently the Rev. Pam Strader shared at our District Clergy meeting what she has learned about the damage this constitutional amendment will cause if passed. Her PowerPoint presentation on what she has learned, along with statements from The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions, can be accessed on our website atwww.greensborodistrictumc.org/node/490. What Pam lifted up for we clergy is how the Constitutional Amendment hurts those in non-traditional relationships. The Constitutional Amendment reads that traditional marriage is the only domestic legal union, while state law puts the emphasis on consent between a man and a woman.
The Constitutional Amendment will reach into other families like unmarried couples who have children. These children could lose insurance coverage. Domestic violence laws could be voided for those not in a domestic legal union. Medical, end of life, and financial decisions afforded unmarried persons in committed relationships now would be illegal if the Constitutional Amendment passes.
Someone recently emailed the district office asking what is the official position of the Conference on this Constitutional Amendment. The only group who can officially speak for the Conference is the Annual Conference. I don’t believe this was on the docket last June and this June will be too late. However, our Social Principles in The Book of Discipline 2008 do state this: “We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.“
John Wesley gave us three general rules we are to follow as Methodists. They are: 1. “Do no harm.” This Constitutional Amendment does great harm to people whose rights will be taken away if this passes. It will also be a nightmare for family court. 2.”Do all the good that you can.” This Constitutional Amendment proposes to do good for those in traditional marriage. Yet, it doesn’t add one thing to my marriage of 38 years. 3. “Stay in love with God.” An early Christian desert father said something like this. The closer you draw to others, the closer you are to God. The farther you are from others, the farther you are from God. This Constitutional Amendment draws me farther away from others and I believe also from God.
I urge you to read the materials available, and become informed about the many issues around Amendment One that have potential for doing great harm. I have done that, and I will be voting NO to Amendment One on May 8th.
The Rev. Dr. Duke Ison
Greensboro District Superintendent
The United Methodist Church