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Richfield Baptist Leaders Support 2012 Ballot Measure Banning Same-Sex Marriage

Richfield's Southview Baptist Church leaders say their congregation is united in support of next fall’s ballot initiative. However, they don't plan to pursue the issue past weekly sermons.

With the vote over a divisive 2012 ballot measure——now less than a year away, civic groups, professional lobbying organizations and, yes, churches across the state are marshaling their members’ energies, hoping to sway Minnesota voters towards passage or defeat of the amendment.

As efforts on both sides of the issue gain momentum and a variety of faith groups weigh in, the leaders of Richfield’s reported that, despite the church’s strong feelings about the issue, it currently has no plans to pursue the ballot initiative outside of weekly sermons.

“Our church is based on what we find in the scriptures, but I’m not up preaching every week on the marriage amendment or abortion,” said Jeremy Stephens, the head pastor at Southview Baptist Church. “Ours isn’t a political agenda, it’s a word-centered agenda.”

Southview Baptist has a small congregation comprised of roughly 20 regularly attending members. Stephens, who has been the church’s head pastor for four years, said he doesn’t foresee having to expend much energy in getting his church’s members out to vote in the 2012 election.

“I see myself reminding [congregants] that the vote is coming up, and reminding them that it is their civic responsibility, as a Christian, to be involved in the voting,” Stephens said. “But in the sense of telling them how they need to vote, I don’t anticipate involving myself as a pastor to that degree.”

Baptist Marriage Beliefs

“This [the definition of marriage] is one of those issues in our church where there’s not much discussion or variance,” said Randy Krystowiak, a deacon currently in his first year of service at Southview Baptist. “Internally we’re in agreement.”

Because Baptists generally believe in the literal word of the Bible, Krystowiak reported that congregants and leaders at Southview Baptist believe marriage, as the Bible prescribes, is a union between a man and a woman.

“Of course, I would support clarifying that definition for the state,” Krystowiak said. “We don’t get a marriage license through the church. It’s a civil covenant. To define marriage as being [between a man and a woman], that’s why definitions are made.”

Richfield Baptist Leaders Don't Intend to Offend

According to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll conducted at the beginning of November 2011, 48 percent of Minnesotans are in favor of passing the constitutional amendment, while 43 percent remain opposed.

The poll revealed stark disparities in how Minnesotans view the constitutional amendment, with respondents’ age, political affiliation, education level and geographic location all proving significant factors.

Those polled who identified as Democrats, college-educated and living in the metro were more likely to oppose the constitutional amendment. Republicans, those with no college education and Minnesotans living outside the metro were more likely to approve of the ballot measure. Age proved important as well, with 70 percent of Minnesotans over 65 saying they supported the amendment.

Critics have argued that the constitutional amendment is discriminatory. In an in May 2011, Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Richfield/Minneapolis), minority leader in the Minnesota House, disapproved of the ballot measure, arguing that, should the amendment pass, “We’re inscribing discrimination in our state constitution.”

Krystowiak said that, while his faith didn’t intend to upset or offend, he nonetheless realized that some people in the state would take umbrage at the message preached at Southview Baptist Church.

“Our goal is not to offend people, but we realize our message will be offensive to some,” he said. “I understand that some people will feel that a marriage amendment is discriminating against them, but I’m not being driven by that.”

Stephens and Krystowiak both emphasized that it was their faith, and not animosity towards same-sex couples, which prompted them to support the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Regardless of their feelings about gay marriage and the behavior of same-sex couples, they both emphasized that the position of Southview Baptist Church was not one of hatefulness.

“I want the public to know, and if there’s a same-sex couple reading this, I want them to know, that we may not agree, but that doesn’t automatically cancel out our church’s love for them,” Stephens said.

While they were unaware of any homosexual congregants at Southview Baptist Church, Stephens and Krystowiak said their congregation would welcome homosexual individuals, including same-sex couples, who were interested in visiting their church anytime.

Caitlin Burgess December 07, 2011 at 05:16 PM
What do you all think of the recent numbers from the Star Tribune? I was quite surprised when I saw the majority - while the percentages were close - were in support of the amendment considering this state is generally more liberal.
Kevin O'Donovan December 09, 2011 at 05:24 PM
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in items 2357,58,59 offers a clear statement of Christian orthodox beliefs on this subject. Two sentences in particular are very meaningful."They(homosexuals) must be accepted with respect,compassion,and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." To maintain that marriage is limited to one man and one woman is not discriminatory. The same rights belong to everyone. The limitations apply to everyone equally. A deep and abiding friendship can be maintained by anyone. Is it a right for a child to marry a parent? I think we can all agree there are limits to what's acceptable. There is very little that is not available through contract. Joint ownership, Powers of Attorney, and other abilities already exist within the law. Homosexual activity has already been decriminalized, but it is not something to celebrate or encourage.
David Haines December 09, 2011 at 06:12 PM
The church can set a limit on what is acceptable, yes. But when we are talking about civil marriage and the benefits that come with that, I don't know how you can justify not allowing committed gay couples the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Call it marriage, call it a civil union, call it a registered partnership but make sure that the legal rights are the same for any couple that otherwise legally qualifies for a marriage license. The church can still put it's blessing on any marriage it feels fit. Nobody is arguing for (and i would not argue for) child/parent marriage, polygamy, cousins marrying. This is a red herring as our state still has a financial and health interest to prohibit these types of marriages from happening. I'm not trying to change your deeply held beliefs but the time has come for committed gay couples enjoy the same LEGAL rights as I do with my wife without having to hire lawyers and draft contracts and notify various government agencies and insurance companies, etc...
Kevin O'Donovan December 09, 2011 at 09:15 PM
David, Homosexuals do have the same rights as everyone else. The males can marry a female, and the females can marry a male. You are the one that is advocating for changes in the law, not those who oppose your position. The issue will be clarified once and for all by this ballot measure. This way the law will be clear to all, and reflect the will of the citizens. It will not be left to judges or elected officials to misapply, disregard. or misinterpret the law. This is not bigotry, but legal clarity. Maybe voters will decide against the amendment. Then homosexuals can attempt to amend the Constitution themselves. Good people will have differing opinions on this issue, but let's be clear it is not just a religious issue. It reflects Natural Law too.
David Haines December 09, 2011 at 09:53 PM
"Homosexuals do have the same rights as everyone else" because "the males can marry a female, and the females can marry a male". Find a reasonable and rational homosexual to explain this to and then listen to what they have to say in response. It could possibly be an eye opening experience for you. Oh, and the law is already clear so this vote is not for legal clarity. It's a political stunt and I hope and pray Minnesotans see right through it and vote NO on this issue.

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