Lyndale church opposes gay-marriage ban

Church plans to perform religious weddings exclusively

Lyndale United Church of Christ opposed a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages by discontinuing civil weddings under a resolution the congregation passed unanimously on Sunday, April 9.

Now the church will perform religious weddings exclusively, as it has for 120 years for heterosexual couples and since 1991 for gays. The decision was announced at a press conference on Wednesday, April 12 at the church at 810 W. 31st St.

Lyndale United, which has 200 members, reacted to a call from the United Church of Christ General Synod 25 to stop discriminating against gays and the congregation’s own “open and affirming” policy. The vote followed a five-week study on the issue.

White Bear Lake Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Mahtomedi passed a similar motion three years ago. Soon, Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, 106 E. Diamond Lk. Rd., will also vote on the issue.

Lyndale Pastor Don Portwood said, “We’re saying that we’re privileged to marry people in the eyes of God, but we won’t do it in the eyes of the state anymore. We’re trying to separate the function of religious institutions and the state,” he said. “Religious institutions bless relationships, not make them legal.”

Lyndale United member Rebecca Voelkel, also a reverend, said, “This is a clear case of the state practicing discrimination against some of its citizenry. When that happens, we’re called to witness against discrimination or injustice and to find ways to practice justice as much as possible.”

Lyndale church member Mary Martin, who lives in a senior complex with her husband in Kenwood-Isles, said that she supports equal rights for everyone. “I feel honored to be a part of a congregation that makes a stand on this issue. As a straight couple, we’ve benefited all these years from all the rights that go along with being married. It should be free to everyone,” she said.

The United Church of Christ has a long history of civil rights activism. The denomination ordained its first openly gay minister in 1973. Its first female minister was ordained in 1853. Some church members were also involved in the abolitionist movement and, later, the civil rights movement in the 1950s.