The war of words between two factions in the fight over gay marriage in Iowa has escalated.  

Three months ago a group of 167 Iowa clergy signed a letter, urging state lawmakers to oppose attempts to “diminish the marriage rights” of gay couples. Earlier this week, Iowa Family Policy Center president Chuck Hurley — an opponent of gay marriage — held a news conference to tout a petition that had been signed by 834 ministers.  Hurley said it was a group of “real” pastors who oppose gay marriage and he dismissed the group of 167 Interfaith Alliance clergy as “pseudo pastors.” 

The executive director of the Interfaith Alliance then asked Hurley to retract that statement.

On Wednesday, Hurley went one step farther, calling on the Interfaith Alliance clergy to “repent.”  Hurley went on to say the clergy “who signed the Interfaith Alliance (letter) are defying the Word of God.” According to Hurley, “they are confused at best and blatantly evil at worst.”

“Those who are promoting sex outside of one-man/one-woman marriage are leading their flocks astray — that’s pretty mild,” Hurley says.  “I mean I could, obviously, say some stronger words, but what I tried to do was point out was what the Christian scriptures say.”

Connie Ryan Terrell, the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, says Hurley has “inflamed” the situation. “He had the choice to do the right thing, in my opinion, and retract his statement and, perhaps, even apologize for what he said about clergy,” Terrell says.  “But instead he chose to ramp up the emotions of it and use language that was even more derogatory and disparaging toward clergy who just happen to disagree with him.” 

The bishop of the Episcopal churches of Iowa signed the Interfaith Alliance letter in February, as did rabbis and pastors who lead several campus ministries at colleges like Wartburg and Luther.  Terrell says Hurley has shown a lack of “respect” for that group.

“That particular organization and Mr. Hurley in particular believes that there is only one way to think, only one belief system that is right and that they have the corner on that market,” Terrell says. “From the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa perspective, we know that there is a broad spectrum of faith beliefs not only on this issue, but on many issues.” 

Terrell says she’s telling the 167 clergy who Hurley has labeled “pseudo” pastors to contact Hurley personally to discuss his comments.

Hurley says his side will be vindicated in the end. “The scriptures are very, very clear that you’re playing with eternal separation from God when you blatantly violate His rules,” Hurley says. 

Read the written statements from the two groups below.

Hurley Offers Revision to “Pseudo Pastor” Comment

6/2/10 Pleasant Hill, IA – At a press conference held in front of the Iowa Capitol yesterday, representatives from the Iowa Family Policy Center joined with Iowa pastors and Purpose Ministries to announce that over 800 Iowa pastors and ministry leaders have added their signatures to either the IFPC Ministers’ Marriage Letter or the Purpose Ministries Petition in support of real marriage.  While contrasting the support shown by over 800 Christian ministers for the institution of marriage, with an earlier petition delivered to lawmakers in support of state sanctioned sodomy, IFPC President Chuck Hurley referred to some of those who signed that earlier petition as “pseudo pastors.”

Today, Hurley responded to a request from Iowa’s pro-sodomy lobbying group One Iowa to retract his statement.  He said, “In the excitement surrounding the revelation that there are over 800 Christian ministers who will stand up in this increasingly dark culture and put their name on a strong statement of support for marriage, I said something that required more clarification than I took the time to offer yesterday.”

Hurley continued, “Today I would like to revise my statement to be clearer about the message I intended to deliver.”

He went on to say, “Yesterday, I said that I believe a pseudo pastor, meaning anyone who would knowingly lead their flock astray on issues of morality and spirituality, and so clearly violate the revealed Word of God, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a false shepherd (Mathew 7:15.) Just so that there is no confusion surrounding my comments, I want to be very clear. Any number of groups can establish whatever criteria they like for ordaining leaders and for establishing traditions and practices.  They may not, according to my understanding, publicly and knowingly violate the clear teaching found in the Bible and with any integrity continue to call themselves pastors of a Christian congregation.”

Hurley added, “In my opinion, those who signed their name to the Interfaith Alliance petition in support of state sanctioned sodomy are not only wolves in sheep’s clothing, but they are blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:13-14.) They are the men and women who replace sound doctrine with hollow words that appeal to the itching ears of those who listen (II Timothy 4:3-4.) They are whitewashed tombs attempting to repackage sin so that it is socially acceptable, but delivering a message that leads to death (Matthew 23:27-28.) They are sacrificing the eternal souls of those who follow them by seeking the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43-48.)  Let there be no confusion, the people who signed the Interfaith Alliance petition are defying the Word of God. They are confused at best and blatantly evil at worst.”

Concluding his remarks, Hurley said, “The good news is that there are still over 800 Christian pastors and ministers in Iowa who have not bowed the knee to the false god of homosexuality and sexual perversion.  They are the watchmen on the wall in our state, and should be commended.  Furthermore, we serve a loving God who offers forgiveness, and I encourage those who signed the Interfaith Alliance petition to repent, turn to Christ, and join us in showing genuine concern for both the physical and the spiritual wellbeing of those caught up in the destructive sin of homosexuality.”

Retraction of comments demanded of religious right organization; All faith beliefs must be respected

For the second time this week, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa asks Chuck Hurley and the Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC) to retract disparaging statements aimed at faith leaders who signed a letter this February in support of marriage equality.

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Executive Director, Connie Ryan Terrell, stated today, “Mr. Hurley is blatantly disrespectful of the many clergy from across Iowa who are supportive of marriage equality simply because he believes differently.  Mr. Hurley, who is not a pastor, has every right to his belief, as do the clergy who signed our letter in February and other clergy from across the state who support marriage equality.” 

IFPC has refused to retract its statement from a press conference held on June 1, 2010 stating clergy who are supportive of same-gender marriages are “pseudo pastors” and some are a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who are leading their flocks astray.

In a press release dated June 2, 2010, Hurley inflamed the debate by stating, “Let there be no confusion, the people who signed the Interfaith Alliance [letter] are defying the Word of God. They are confused at best and blatantly evil at worst.”

Ryan Terrell went on to say, “People of faith bridge the spectrum of beliefs on this and many other issues.  Pastors, ministers, rabbis, bishops and other faith leaders have simply stated their support of marriage equality for all people, regardless of gender. Mr. Hurley has no business proclaiming who should and should not call themselves ‘pastor’. It is inappropriate and uncivil for Mr. Hurley to do so.  He should retract and apologize for his statement that clearly has no place in this public discussion.”

Founded in 1996, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is a non-partisan organization working to protect both faith and freedom in Iowa. We believe religion best contributes to public life when it works for reconciliation, inspires common effort, promotes concern for all people and upholds the dignity of all human beings.  We also believe it is imperative that, in a healthy democracy, respect be shown for the religious freedom and beliefs of every person and that this is best promoted by maintaining a healthy separation between church and state.

Our beliefs intersect with many issues of civic life and policy including support of separation of church and state, public education, marriage equality, economic justice, and comprehensive immigration reform.