By over 60 percent, North Carolina voters recently approved a state constitutional amendment called Amendment One defining marriage as the union of man and woman. Here is the amendment’s entire text:
“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
The United Methodist Church also has a stance on civil marriage. Since 2000, the church’s Social Principles have said: “We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
But oddly, the two United Methodist bishops in North Carolina joined with liberal clergy in publicly opposing Amendment One. The names of Bishop Al Gwinn of the North Carolina Conference and Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Conference were highlighted in a full page anti-amendment newspaper ad in The News and Observer of Raleigh on May 6, They were joined by Episcopal Bishops Michael Curry, Clifton Daniel and Porter Taylor, two Presbyterian Church (USA) General Moderators, Douglas Oldenburg and Price Gwinn, the head of the North Carolina Council of Churches, plus officials from the Unity Fellowship Church Movement and the Progressive Pentecostal Church of the Triad.
And here is what it declared:
“Amendment One is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak out and stop this Amendment before it can cause irreparable harm to the least of these-children, battered women, and widows–in North Carolina.
Amendment One claims to protect marriage and family, but the rush to get it on the ballot resulted in sloppy language that will have devastating consequences. Rather than protecting families, the poor wording of Amendment One will cut kids off from their parents’ health care, put widows at risk of losing survivor benefits and battered women at risk of losing legal protections and access to shelters.
Regardless of one’s position on marriage, we cannot allow children, battered women, and widows to pay the price for a sloppily written and rushed amendment. Any Amendment asking us to sacrifice the most vulnerable among us to supposedly protect religion and family doesn’t understand the point of either faith or family.
Spread the Word, and on May 8, VOTE AGAINST Amendment One.”
So the ad, while opposing defining marriage as the union of man and woman, claimed to speak in defense of children, battered women and widows. Now that that the amendment has passed, we can see whether these warnings were anywhere near valid. Revealingly, the head of the North Carolina Council of Churches, in a statement after the vote, said nothing about the supposed threat to children, battered women and widows. Instead, he more straightforwardly complained of “discrimination written into our constitution,” and warned of “years of court cases,” which he no doubt hopes will overturn the people’s vote on Amendment One.
The voices of declining denominations, embodied by the North Carolina Council of Churches, were largely ignored by North Carolina voters. More influential was elderly evangelist Billy Graham, who unusually spoke out from retirement in defense of Amendment One. “Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern,” he said in a statement that appeared in newspaper ads. “I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected.”
Sadly, United Methodist bishops in North Carolina seem unconcerned about protecting marriage or even the official stance of their own denomination. The Southeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church will elect 5 new bishops in July, and hopefully at least some of them will be more concerned.