A group of conservative Lodi pastors say they will conduct a voter registration drive among Christians who they hope will support Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in California.
Ken Owen, president and founder of Lodi-based Christian Community Concerns, led a luncheon meeting of religious leaders on Wednesday, urging them to work with their congregations to vote for Proposition 8. The ballot measure is a constitutional amendment that restricts marriage to being between a man and a woman. It would also invalidate the California Supreme Court's ruling in May that legalized gay marriage.
It's a hot-button issue in the religious community. The Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have gone on record opposing gay marriage and supporting Proposition 8, while several Episcopal bishops in California - including the ones representing Lodi and Galt - support gay marriage.
Owen urged seven religious leaders at a "pastors luncheon" Wednesday to get as many Christians registered to vote as possible, then make sure they go out and actually vote.
Owen said Proposition 8 will pass easily if there is a high turnout of Christians at the polls in November.
Pastor Loren Stacy of Church of God (Seventh Day) is one religious leader in Lodi who plans to educate voters about gay marriage. He said he plans an "educational blitz" at his church by showing a DVD about Proposition 8 produced by Focus on the Family at his service at 11 a.m. Saturday. A second DVD on the subject will be shown the following week.
Religious leaders attending the Christian Community Concerns luncheon included Stacy and senior pastors Dale Edwards of Century Assembly, Perry Kallis of Temple Baptist Church and Frank Nolton of New Hope Community Church, Associate Pastor Steve Opp of Temple Baptist, Ann Kerr, a lay person representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Lodi Rabbi Raphael Pazo.
"It will be a cold day in hell before I marry a homosexual
- Dale Edwards, senior pastor, Century Assembly, Lodi
"Jesus was about inclusivity. It is very difficult for me to
read Jesus in such a way that he would deny basic human rights to
- Bob Mattheis, retired pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi
"If we pass Proposition 8, we will set the homosexual agenda
back on their ear."
- Ken Owen, president and founder, Christian Community Concerns
"The top issues are gas prices and the economy, and the issue of
- Aaron D. Van Nortwick, regional director for Protect Marriage
"The problem is you can find scripture passages that support
- Mark Price, senior pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi
What is Proposition 8?
- It changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right
of same-sex couples to marry in California.
- Only marriage between a man and a woman would be valid or
recognized in California.
Source: California Attorney General's Office
Pazo, who had to leave the luncheon early and was unable to comment, said on Thursday that he opposes the ballot measure because it constitutes discrimination against a certain group of people.
Meanwhile, Proposition 8 supporters raised questions at their luncheon meeting about how schools, churches and society in general are affected if gay marriage continues to be legal in California.
Protect Marriage officials say that if Proposition 8 fails, pastors may risk losing their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages, public school teachers may be required to inform students that gay marriage is an acceptable lifestyle and that California's decision could lead a nationwide movement.
"We recognize that Jesus is the foundation that we live our lives on," Owen told the pastors. "Marriage is one of the foundations of our society. Many other foundations will crumble if Proposition 8 fails.
"Politics doesn't change culture; culture changes politics," Owen said. "The homosexual agenda is changing culture. They know you have to change the culture to change politics."
Not all pastors believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Mark Price of St. Paul Lutheran Church opposes Proposition 8.
"In my readings of Christ's teachings, Jesus was inclusive, not exclusive," Price said in an interview on Thursday. "I think that's the first thing we have to look at."
However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which governs St. Paul, doesn't allow gay marriages, and its pastors are forbidden from performing gay weddings, Price said.
"The Lutheran church is not of one mind," he said. "We're striving to be of one mind."
That includes his own church.
"There is diversity within my congregation," Price said.
Retired St. Paul Bob Mattheis, who didn't attend Wednesday's luncheon, said that following the literal translation of the Bible equates to denying any scientific research.
"Our knowledge about homosexuality has expanded since the first century," Mattheis said. "We know today it's not a choice, that it's something people discover about themselves."
But what about the Book of Ecclesiastes, where God says that homosexuality is an abomination?
Mattheis said, "People in those days thought it was an abomination; we know better today."