The Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane, Bishop of Maine, and three other church leaders joined in a “Civil Discourse on Same-sex Marriage” last month in Portland. The event, sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches and the University of Southern Maine’s Interfaith Chaplaincy, was an effort to show how believers may converse civilly about their deepest differences.
Four states will vote on same-sex marriage measures in November: Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington.
In addition to Bishop Lane, the conversationalists included Father Joseph Daniels, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Waterville and a contributor to Bishop Richard Malone’s 24-page pastoral letter on marriage [PDF]; the Rev. Susan Craig, an associate conference minister of the United Church of Christ; and the Rev. Michael Davis, tri-state superintendent of the United Methodist Church. They met on Sept. 20 at at the University of Southern Maine’s Luther Bonney Hall.
The Maine Council of Churches created a Covenant for Civil Discourse in 2009, in response to attack ads in political campaigns. “The covenant is simple,” said the Rev. Jill Saxby, executive director of the council. “It’s a set of promises to regulate oneself, to behave in ways that we want others to behave toward us, with no exceptions for political discourse.”
Since then more than 80 Maine candidates running for office have signed the covenant as a promise to act respectfully toward opponents, to refrain from personal attacks (while maintaining the right to vigorous disagreement), to refuse to make untrue statements in defense of a position, to value civility and to expect campaign workers to do the same. Leaders of Maine’s Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Episcopal, and Unitarian Universalist churches, and several Quaker meetings, have also signed the covenant.