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Meir Rinde

 

Church hears call for gay marriage foes

Protest greets minister-activist’s rally at Free Christian Church

 

By Meir Rinde

Staff Writer

Jan. 4, 2004

 

ANDOVER — Ronald Crews stood in front of 90 pastors and Christian activists, his Southern-accented voice starting quietly but suddenly growing louder as he rallied them to his cause.

“Pastor, it’s 11 o’clock. Do you know where your legislator stands?” he asked.

Murmurs of support rose from the pews before him. Crews mentioned pro-slavery court judgements before the Civil War and a defiant Abraham Lincoln, and said the state Legislature must tell the Supreme Judicial Court, “On this issue you are wrong!”

At those words, the audience at Free Christian Church in downtown Andover burst into applause for Crews, a minister and former Georgia state legislator who is leading the charge against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The church was the latest stop yesterday in a weeklong series of talks by the minister from the Bible Belt and other Christian conservatives trying to stop the state from allowing two men, or two women, to wed.

Extending marriage to homosexuals would fundamentally undermine the institution of marriage and endanger children adopted by gay couples, they argued. The success of gay parenting is simply unknown and the judiciary should have left it to the people and their elected representatives to make such a momentous decision, they said.

“Children are those who have no voice in this debate,” said Thomas Minnery, head of public policy for the conservative Colorado group Focus on the Family. “How is it two men can teach a young girl to be a woman? How is it two women can teach a young boy to be a man? There is no answer to this question.”

In a 4-3 decision Nov. 18, the court ruled it was unconstitutional to bar gay couples from tying the knot. The opinion gave the Legislature six months to act as it “deems appropriate” before the decision takes effect. At a constitutional convention Feb. 11, lawmakers will vote on a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a man and woman.

Dressed in sweaters and jackets against the arctic temperatures outside, the pastors and a few pastors’ wives listened intently, some scribbling notes during the three-hour event yesterday. A few cried out “Amen” or “Praise be to God” when they heard a point with which they particularly agreed.

One of the three speakers, the Rev. H.B. London of Focus on the Family, interspersed the day’s motivational messages and political strategizing with group hymn singing and prayers that brought the clerical congregation to its feet. One tall man with silvery hair lifted his hands in praise to God as he sang.

Several gay marriage supporters also came to Free Christian Church yesterday, greeting the other attendees with a protest organized by local Unitarian Universalists. The protesters stood bundled in the freezing weather, carrying signs saying, “People of faith proud to support same-sex marriages” and “Support family values for all types of families.” Drivers honked in support or frowned in disapproval as they passed.

The Rev. Ralph B. Galen of Andover’s Unitarian Church was among a handful of protesters who later ventured into the church to hear the speeches. He sat quietly in a back pew, listening as Minnery and Crews justified their opposition to gay marriage with Bible quotations and purported inconsistencies in the Supreme Judicial Court’s published decision.

Galen blasted the speeches afterward, rejecting speakers’ ideas as rationalizations for bigotry. He also dismissed their exhortations to pastors to be prepared for attacks from those supporting gay marriage.

“It’s polemics. It’s about people hating homosexuals,” Galen said. “The same basic rights belong to everyone. If we do not speak about full equality for gays, lesbians and transgendered people, there will be more hate crimes, more incidents like the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming.

“If anybody is being persecuted, it’s not the expatriate Georgia legislator,” he added.

Most of the clergymen who attended were receptive to Crews’ message. The Rev. Christopher Makiej, the youthful pastor of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church on Chandler Road, said afterward that he would use the advice to mobilize his parishioners against same-sex marriage.

“We’ve already had some people who want to write letters to their legislators, and this will encourage that,” Makiej said. He added quickly, “We do it in love, and especially with concern for children and their rights.”

Like Makiej, most participants said they felt spiritual love for gay people, as for all people, and are principally opposed to changing the meaning of marriage or allowing gay parenting.

But some critics of the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling say they oppose all homosexuality. The Web site for Crews’ organization, the Massachusetts Family Institute, calls it “sodomy.” John C. Rankin, a Hartford, Conn., minister who ended yesterday’s meeting by asking attendees to sign an “affirmation on marriage,” spoke of pastors “who suffer homosexual temptations.”

And Pastor K.C. Chang of the mostly Korean Zion Alliance Church in Bedford said homosexuality is clearly unnatural.

“I follow all the news about this gay marriage stuff,” Chang said. “I’m really stirred up about this issue. Human beings have certain freedoms, but they should not go against God’s law.”

“Gay people have their own rights. But gay marriage with the adoption of innocent children — I believe that’s child abuse.”

 

Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company, 2004