The Faith Community Debate in the Madison Area

Kenneth Burns penned an in-depth feature about the Madison faith community debate over the civil unions and marriage ban for Isthmus.

It's the first article I've seen that interrogates Julaine Appling's claim that they have the support of 4,000 to 5,000 churches. Burn interviews a number of Madison-area Christian leaders. There's a great sidebar that shows the list of Dane County clergy publicly supporting a no vote and those supporting a yes vote. (It shows more clergy on our side.)

Some of the clergy who are considered more conservative are not jumping up and down about the ban. There seems to be the same lack of enthusiasm we see in other quarters (like the way state lawmakers who voted for the ban rarely speak about it nowadays).

Burns interviewed Chris Dolson, the senior pastor at Blackhawk Church, a west-side “mega-church” that attracts more than 3,000 worshippers each week.
While [Dolson] affirms that the Bible says the only appropriate sexual relationships are between married men and women, he says the amendment has not come up in his conversations, and he will not preach about it.

Like a growing number of evangelical preachers, Dolson believes church is not an appropriate place to discuss politics. "It's not an issue of this or that amendment," he says. "What's more important, following Christ, or following our Legislature?"

But Dolson encourages churchgoers to consider Christian ethics as they ponder the amendment’s possible effects on the gay community. "Put yourselves in their shoes," he says. "Do you think it would be beneficial to them? The whole thing about people not being able to see their dying spouse because they’re not married, to me that's not fair."


On the Family Research Institute Web site is a pledge form asking state pastors to "speak out publicly in support of Wisconsin’s Marriage Protection Amendment." More than 200 pastors have signed, including Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants. Appling says the form was sent only to clergy members likely to sign, not to liberal pastors: "I don't have that kind of time to spend on those folks."

Still, not everyone who received the pledge has signed it. Among the refusniks is Ed Killeen, pastor of Lake Trails Presbyterian Church in Madison. Lake Trails is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, a historically conservative branch.

"I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman," says Killeen. "But I believe the government and the people have the obligation to uphold the civil rights of citizens."

Does Killian support civil unions? "That's something that can be taken up in the Legislature as an issue for debate," he says. "I don't think [civil unions are] inconsistent with either what our nation was founded on, or the Biblical principles to care for the rights of individuals."

Mike Moore, pastor of Madison’s Faith Community Bible Church, also received the pledge and declined to sign. "I get lots of things from everybody who wants you to do what they want you to do," he says. "I don't have time for all those sorts of things."

To be sure, there are plenty of faith institutions supporting a yes vote, and we shouldn't underestimate what may be unfolding under the radar, church by church. But it's encouraging to read about faith communities you might assume are working to pass the ban but are clearly not excited about it.

Check out the full article.


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