Thursday, November 1, 2012

Episcopal Bishop Urges Faithful to Vote Their Conscience; Supports Marriage Equality, DREAM Act; Not Expanded Gambling

Baltimore -- The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, thinks all citizens in Maryland should vote their consciences on the ballot questions in the current election Nov. 6. But writing in a pastoral letter to clergy and lay members of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, Bishop Sutton makes the case for marriage equality (Question 6) and the DREAM Act (Question 4). He explains why he opposes expanded gambling (Question 7).

"In all of these matters, I want to assure you that The Episcopal Church considers what and who you vote for in an election to be an act of your personal choice, an expression of your responsibilities as a faithful child of God as well as an informed citizen of the state," writes Bishop Sutton in a pastoral letter. "We have too much respect for you and your conscience to tell you how you should vote; that to us would be an abuse of power that does not honor the way of Jesus."

On marriage equality the bishop acknowledges it is a divisive issue both in the church as well as society. But Bishop Sutton says this legislation seeks "to correct past injustices by extending the legal benefits of marriage to all citizens no matter their sexual orientation. This goes to the core of what it means to live in a democratic society, and it is an issue of basic fairness."

As for those who object to marriage equality on religious grounds, Bishop Sutton writes: "There are fewer than a handful of Bible verses used by those opposed to same-sex relationships, and none spoken by Jesus. What we do know from the life and actions of Jesus is that he practiced a radical inclusion of those who are the 'other,' who were marginalized and oppressed. I am one of those who believe our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers have been treated as second class citizens in our society."

The bishop has supported the DREAM Act since it was first introduced. His 2010 pastoral letter, "Welcoming the Stranger," outlines a theological basis for comprehensive immigration reform. In October's pastoral, "Political Voices and Gospel Values," the bishop writes, "Concerning aliens (foreign immigrant workers), the Bible is very clear: 'You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.' (Exodus 22:21) This is one of many passages in Scripture reminding the citizens of Israel how they are to treat the alien in their midst."

In 2008 the Diocese of Maryland voted in convention to oppose gambling legislation then proposed. At that time Bishop Sutton, along with now retired Bishop John L. Rabb wrote, "Gambling always has a detrimental impact on low and moderate income individuals and families...Proponents say that state-sponsored slot machine gambling will be used primarily for public truth, it is a regressive tax on the poor."
Bishop Sutton urges his faithful to consult a resource from the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, "Christian Principles in an Election Year," to help inform their votes. And of this latest letter he tells his congregants: "It is in the spirit of continuing a dialogue with you - not silencing, excommunicating or closing off conversation with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ - that I present this pastoral letter as a communication from me to you, as chief pastor of a diocese seeking to shepherd his flock."

No comments:

Post a Comment