Two key conservative evangelical leaders in Minnesota are not endorsing the marriage amendment or directing followers to vote for it, marking the first time during debate over the measure that major faith leaders have not encouraged members to take a stand on the issue.
Influential preacher and theologian the Rev. John Piper came out against gay marriage during a sermon Sunday but did not explicitly urge members of his Minneapolis church to vote for the amendment.
The Rev. Leith Anderson, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's longtime pastor, also said this week he does not plan to take a public side on the amendment, which would change the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Religious observers say the lack of formal backing from the two influential figures could signal that evangelical leaders in Minnesota are taking a less active role in supporting the amendment -- a marked departure from evangelicals in dozens of other states where similar amendments have passed.
"Don't press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism," Piper said during his sermon, posted on Bethlehem Baptist Church's website. "Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative mandates, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word."I confess, I'm surprised to hear another pastor ask Piper to be more dogmatic. Good for Piper. It sounds like he has been taking cues from Greg Boyd. ;)
Piper had been under pressure from conservative groups to weigh in on the amendment, according to his spokesman David Mathis, adding that Piper did not hold back over concerns the church could lose its tax-exempt status.
"Basically our position is, we're not taking one as a church," Mathis said. "And by addressing this in June rather than October or early November, there's no effort here for political expediency, trying to get certain votes out of people."
"He [Piper] wants to avoid the political realm as much as possible. The Christian Gospel is not left, it's not right. It is what it is."
President of the National Association of Evangelicals, Anderson stepped down in December as senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie and said it's inappropriate to take a stand on the amendment because he's no longer an active pastor. Anderson noted he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage in a 2004 pastoral letter to Wooddale congregants.
"When churches start getting really politically engaged, they often lose focus over what is their primary mission," Anderson said in an interview.
"There are appropriate times to do it [be politically engaged]. I think churches should, but they need to be careful about what they do. I especially think churches should seek to be nonpartisan in their approach to teaching moral truths."
The Rev. Mark Poorman, senior pastor at Woodcrest Baptist Church in Fridley, said he has encouraged his congregants to vote for the amendment and is disappointed Anderson and Piper won't join him.
"It would have been nice to hear him [Piper] be a little more dogmatic."
How involved should Pastors be in regards to politics?
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