Iowa Churches: We Need to Be Clear on Same-Sex Marriage
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled April 3 that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, making Iowa the first Midwest state to legalize same-sex marriages. Iowa does not have a residency requirement for couples applying for a license. Changing the Iowa Constitution requires a resolution to be adopted in the exact same form by the House and the Senate of two consecutive General Assemblies before the issue would go before voters for ratification. The earliest such a resolution would clear that process would be the 2011 session.
In the meantime, Iowa pastors are responding to the Supreme Court ruling.
"This decision has no bearing on the church whatsoever," says Jeff Gillmore, senior pastor of Parkview Church (Evangelical Free) in Iowa City. "We found that there is no obligation for the church to marry people of the same sex. We can have our own qualifications—and for us, they will continue to be scriptural guidelines: marriage is between a man and a woman. We've always been very clear about it, so we won't purposefully try to antagonize, but we certainly won't back off from the strong commitment that we've already had."
Richard Van Heukelum, senior pastor of Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Waterloo, says that he typically doesn't tell his congregation which bills to call their congressional representatives about. But he's making an exception this time.
"The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage has activated us for prayer, and we are encouraging people to exercise their constitutional right to write their Representatives and Senators," he says. "I just sent out email to the church about a rally at the capitol. Years ago we put in our doctrinal statement a strong statement of biblically defined marriage. We need to make sure we put it in our premarital brochure we hand out, and make it very clear when we are doing membership classes." Van Heukelum is concerned about the ripple effect this may have on who the church must allow into its ministry, including its K-12 school.
At Dover Church, a Christian Missionary Alliance congregation in Orange City, associate pastor Dennis Rockhill says the ruling won't change their commitment to only marry a man and a woman. "We won't be emphasizing that as a doctrine from the pulpit because it's always been assumed," he says. "We may highlight it new membership class, and certainly if we have any classes devoted to marriage. I anticipate discussion about this in youth group, where we have a lot of kids that don't come to church on Sundays."
Richard Schlotter, pastor of First Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Ottumwa, says the decision to legalize same-sex marriage has minimal or no bearing on how he does church. "We will continue to stand for the Word of God just as we always have," says Schlotter. "We understand the enemy is at work. We'll continue to encourage our people to pray, make contact with senators and congressmen, and trust that God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
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