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First Congregational will discuss marriage amendment

As election season heats up, First Congregational Church will give voters a place to learn about one of this year’s biggest issues: the marriage amendment.

The church’s Open and Affirming Committee, in cooperation with Minnesota United for All Families, will hold a marriage amendment discussion at 2 p.m. Sunday at the church, located at 1910 Third Ave. NW. The amendment, which appears on the Nov. 6 ballot, asks voters whether to restrict the definition of marriage in Minnesota to one man and one woman.

“It’s something that our church was interested in pursuing,” said Andy Kruse. “We’ve used the content Minnesota United provided, and we’ve customized it to what we think will work in Austin.”

Minnesota United is against the amendment.

In September last year, six members of First Congregational decided to form a task force focused on being open toward and affirming the LGBT community, Kruse said. At that time, Open and Affirming groups had already started at other United Church of Christ congregations.

“It’s something that our church was interested in pursuing,” he said.

The task force’s eventual goal, if the congregation agrees, is to pass a resolution to fully welcome LGBT people into the life and ministry of the church. Kruse said First Congregational is “in the later stages,” but not there yet. Right now, the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns website lists about 32 churches in Minnesota as “affirming.” First Congregational would join that list if it passes the resolution.

But while the Open and Affirming group would like to see that goal realized, the point of Sunday’s discussion will be to invite conversation, not to insist which way people should vote.

“It’s not a rallying call to get people on one side,” he said. “We’re there to listen.”

First Congregational’s Pastor Shari Mason agreed.

“It’s a way of getting information to the community,” she said. “We wanted to look at the amendment before the vote.”

During the meeting, which will use talking points provided by Minnesota United, organizers will explain exactly what the amendment says, what it means for Minnesota and why it affects those in the audience.

“This type of amendment affects people you love and people in your family,” Kruse said.

After that, the group will review some ways to talk about the marriage amendment and encourage people to discuss it with others.

“It’s to affirm being able to listen to one another,” Mason said.

While she plans to open and close the meeting with prayer, Mason intends to be mainly a participant at the meeting, “learning with the rest of them.” She said she couldn’t speak for congregation members as to whether a lot of them planned to vote either for or against the amendment.

The meeting is open to the public.