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My Star-Ledger op-ed: Poverty, not marriage equality, is real threat to families

Star-Ledger op-ed: Recognize real threats to flourishing families

This was originally published in The Star-Ledger on Sunday, September 30, 2012 as an op-ed under the headline Recognize real threats to flourishing families.

Archbishop John Myers’ pastoral letter (“Newark archbishop urges voters to defend marriage,” Sept. 25) is offered in the sincere hope of “seeing family life flourish in northern New Jersey and throughout the state and our nation.” As another bishop in northern New Jersey, whose faith is grounded in the same Scripture and who holds deep respect for our common historical tradition, I share the same hope for the flourishing of family life.

In our unstable economy and increasingly chaotic society, the stress on families is enormous. All religious institutions seek to support people and families through these challenges, and offer guidance as they do so. Myers and many other religious leaders harbor the conviction that families led by same-sex partners undermine the institution of marriage and the well-being of children. In 33 years of ordained life, I have seen just the opposite: blessing and supporting relationships that are marked by love, fidelity and commitment — whether they are headed by a man and a woman, two women or two men — provide a foundation of social stability that supports all families. Marginalizing people has never been a pathway to community stability.

Several times in his pastoral letter, Myers invoked Scripture and tradition. In the Episcopal Church, our faith is based on the “three-legged stool” of Scripture, tradition and reason — which requires the support of all three legs to remain standing. When we celebrate Holy Communion in the Diocese of Newark, the full and wonderful diversity of humanity — male and female, gay and straight, Republican and Democrat, people of every hue and origin — are integrally involved; receiving communion, distributing communion and, in some cases, as priests, celebrating communion.

My hope and prayer is that we can move beyond arguments about unfounded threats to the flourishing of families and focus our attention on the real threats, such as the rising tide of unemployment and poverty, which has left more than 295,000 children in our state — including 42 percent of children in Newark — living below the federal poverty level. I have been with too many kids over the years who have felt the violence of being pushed out, kicked out, ignored, forgotten or treated as acceptable collateral damage in political and economic battles between adults. We can do better.

Let us use the reach and blessing of our religious traditions to help all families and children flourish — housed, clothed, fed and healthy.


Every day that I read of the Episcopal Church's propagation of Jesus' radical welcome of all to God's Table, I thank my father who, when I was only ten years old, introduced his family to this denomination. Bishop Beckwith gently contrasts Archbishop Myers' theology of exclusion with a theology that celebrates "the full and wonderful diversity of humanity". It is a remarkable contrast, considering how closely the liturgies of the two denominations coincide.

With all due respect,I believe that the problem is that we want to re-define what has for 2000 years been a theological and cultural staple of our faith. If we are to do this, we need to recognize that it is an experiment. Does the full and wonderful diversity of humanity mean that we are to accept every kind of sexual behavior? or every kind of union? Where does one draw the line? Can we actually speak morally anymore? Is it now impossible to make any moral judgement whatsoever about marriage - except that everybody's idea of it is equally valid? I have to disagree with the idea that all unions are equally valid. I do not see that anywhere in our Christian tradition. Can someone show me where this is part of our tradition? It is really a brand-new idea, and we really don't know the effects of it - it is a social experiment. With all due respect, I would rather believe in the voice of Christian tradition down through the centuries.

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