PORTLAND — The Maine Council of Churches and the University of Southern Maine Interfaith Chaplaincy are hosting a “Civil Discourse on Same Sex Marriage,” an ecumenical conversation with four Maine religious leaders, on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Luther Bonney Hall, University of Southern Maine.

Panelists participating in this conversation are the Right Rev. Stephen Lane, Episcopal bishop of Maine; the Rev. Joseph Daniels, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Waterville and contributor to Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Malone’s pastoral letter on marriage; the Rev. Susan Craig, United Church of Christ associate conference minister; and the Rev. Michael Davis, United Methodist Church tri-state superintendent. Maine Council of Churches board member and pastor of the Fryeburg New Church, the Rev. Sage Currie, will host the event.

In 2009, the Maine Council of Churches created a Covenant for Civil Discourse in response to the highly negative environment in political campaigns. According to the Rev. Jill Saxby, MCC’s executive director, “The covenant is simple — it’s a set of promises to regulate oneself, to behave in ways that we want others to behave toward us, with no exceptions for political discourse.”

Since then, more than 80 Maine candidates running for office have signed the covenant as a promise to act respectfully toward opponents, to refrain from personal attacks (while maintaining the right to vigorously disagree), to refuse to make untrue statements in defense of a position, to value civility and to expect those working for his or her election to do the same. Maine’s Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Episcopal and Unitarian Universalist denominations and several Quaker meetings have also signed on to the covenant.

The purpose of the “Civil Discourse on Same Sex Marriage” event is to demonstrate that people of faith, who may strongly disagree with each other, can talk to each other in a respectful and civil manner. The conversation will focus each faith leader’s response to members of their communities on a timely issue for voters. Ballot Question 1 in Maine’s Nov. 6 election asks: “ Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”

The Rev. Andrea Thompson McCall, USM’s interfaith chaplain, said, “One of our goals for students is to understand and interact respectfully with others whose values and beliefs are different from their own. This event is a perfect opportunity for students and other members of the community to see that in action about a topic that is extremely timely and relevant in Maine.”

“I look forward to learning from one another how each meets the pastoral needs of our respective and diverse communities,” said Episcopal Bishop Stephen Lane. “This event is a great opportunity for the larger community to discover what church leaders have to say on the issue of same sex marriage and other issues where we differ.”

“Civil Discourse on Same Sex Marriage” is a public event with free admission. Complimentary parking will also be available at USM’s Bedford Street garage.

For more information, contact the Maine Council of Churches, at [email protected] or 772-1918.

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