Praying for Love in Oregon

Barbara CampbellThe Rev. Dr. Barbara J. Campbell, Pastor of St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon, spoke at a Prayer Breakfast sponsored by Oregon United for Marriage on April 23, 2014.  

On May 19, couples of the same gender began to marry in Oregon, following a U.S. federal district court ruling that the state’s constitutional amendment banning such marriages violated the Equal Protection Clause of the federal constitution.

Prayer Breakfast Words

How long, O God, will there be some who deny the mystery and miracle of love?  Even though divine spiritual traditions throughout the history of humanity have known that loving God,  neighbor, and even enemies, is the highest calling of humanity, there are still some who think that love, like everything else must be controlled, regulated, or even feared.

It’s difficult to talk about love, not just because it is as beyond words as is the spirit of life, but because we have misused the term with such disregard.  In English we use the same word to say that we “love” doing crosswords, for instance, and to describe how we “love” our life partners and children and families.  The term “love” has been watered down into something that often refers to mere personal pleasure.

That is not the kind of love that is at the center of our gathering today.  We are here today to pray for, defend, and, dare I say, even to prophesy for love that is, as the Apostle Paul writes, committed to acts of self-less understanding and kindness; love that is not arrogant, or boastful, or seeks its own way, but love that looks beyond the needs of self to care for another.  Such love, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, as so many love stories in this room today could bear witness. This Love, our holy text declares, is a miracle greater than any faith or hope.

Such love is, therefore, equally worthy of recognition, celebration and gratitude, regardless of the race or religion or gender of the people who profess it for each other. Anyone who denies the validity of such love, denies the divine power at work in the universe for good.  People in love in Oregon, as in every land, deserve the right to celebrate and thank the Ground of all Being, for the gift of such love in their lives.

We pray today that the federal judicial hearing in Eugene will recognize and defend the value of love and commitment in our communities and declare any ban unconstitutional that denies same-sex couples the freedom to be married by the civil laws of Oregon and denies many faith communities the ability to live out the love and faith we profess by witnessing and celebrating these weddings.

Reverend Pamela Shepherd and I were privileged to add our names to an amicus brief in early April, opposing a ballot title change to IP 52, a desperate response by our opponents, which seeks to change Oregon’s law so that discrimination by individuals and businesses against same-sex couples, will be allowed in Oregon. IP 52 is discrimination and therefore morally repugnant to the values of our faith, and changing the ballot title to suggest instead that this initiative is about protecting religious freedom is a strategic maneuver meant to confuse voters and cover up of the blatant discrimination of the measure.

Let us pray to the source and energy of agape love, that hearts and minds will be opened, fears released, prejudices healed, truth revealed, and all love validated and celebrated from this time forward, for the miraculous difference it can make in all of life.




  1. Thomas Fultz says:

    How disappointing for the Covenant Network to include in its website these remarks that work against unity in the denomination. The Rev Dr Campbell’s conclusion that “Anyone who denies the validity of such love, denies the divine power at work in the universe for good.” is offensive. Indeed there is mystery and miracle in love, but most of God’s people understand Jesus’ teaching as that marriage is designed to be between two people – one a woman and the other a man. I and most other Presbyterians reach that conclusion. The Rev. Dr Campbell asserts we who disagree with her on same-gender marriage deny God’s work in God’s creation.

    This assertion is certainly at odds with Rev. Ellison’s article “Why an Authoritative Interpretation Matters” in which he states: “The Covenant Network remains committed to both inclusion and unity. Our prayer for the PCUSA is that these necessary changes in how we live out our understanding of marriage will provide a way forward for us to be church together—preserving the conscience of all and living out our ministry in faithfulness and justice and grace.” This posting of Rev. Campbell’s remarks on your website mocks any idea of preserving freedom of conscience within the PCUSA. The Covenant Network should repudiate rather than highlight such an approach. I urge you do so quickly. I take to heart Rev Elison’s comment in reference to the FAQ’s posted on the Coveneant Network’s website and include the comment here to remind the leadership of the organizations of its determined focus on unity and dialogue. He said: “We continue to seek and model a way to discuss these issues that focuses on the substantive matters at hand and the importance of the conversation. We have ourselves been enriched by the conversation with partners across the theological spectrum, and we believe the church can continue to grow through the debate.” Conversation cannot be had when one party asserts the other denys God’s power by their opposing view on a matter of great debate.

  2. Tricia Dykers Koenig says:

    A commitment to unity and mutual forbearance does not mean refraining from expressing one’s own understanding of truth, and sometimes that includes criticism of the views of others. There is a significant distinction between challenging views and attacking persons – as dearly as many of us hold our views.

    Instead, unity in the church means that we can disagree, even deeply and even about very important matters, and still maintain Christian fellowship. Unity is fostered when, in situations where there is serious disagreement, the church finds ways to avoid imposing one view on everyone.

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