SPOKANE -- A Seattle-area group opposed to same-sex marriage is having some success recruiting pastors in the Inland Northwest, its leaders said.
About 50 pastors from eastern Washington and northern Idaho attended a seminar last Friday organized by Sound the Alarm, an Edmonds-based group that says its goal is to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
It was the group's first session in eastern Washington, where clergy were urged to pray more and register their members to vote for "biblical righteousness."
"If we want to make this a statewide issue, it's critical that Spokane comes on board," said the Rev. Jacinta Tegman, a pastor with Westgate Chapel in Edmonds and one of the group's leaders. "It's important the Christian voice on this side is united with the Christian voice on the west side."
Washington's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act doesn't recognize same-sex marriages. Idaho bans unions that aren't between a man and a woman.
The group said its training session for clergy was to preserve "authentic marriage," which it defines as a union between a man and a woman.
Groups opposed to gay marriage plan a national Mayday for Marriage rally Oct. 15 in Washington, D.C.
"Human society will be destroyed if we lose original one-man-and-one-woman marriage," said the Rev. Dan Grether of Spokane, a leader of a local organization known as the Coalition for Authentic Marriage. "I hope the entire Spokane community would realize that authentic marriage is the very first fundamental institution in human society."
Not all Christian churches support the group's aims, however.
Several Spokane-area pastors have performed commitment ceremonies, also known as "holy unions" for gays and lesbians in their congregations.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane is a "welcoming congregation," said the Rev. Dr. Richard Erhardt, who opposes the concept favored by Sound the Alarm.
"We come from the theological position of complete acceptance," Erhardt said. "I stand in direct opposition to this 'authentic marriage' stuff. God makes love. ... Why are we then defining what is and isn't a gift of God?"
The recent session also encouraged pastors to become politically active for conservative causes.
"Most Christians, even ones who are registered, don't vote," said the Rev. Ken Ortize, of Calvary Chapel of Spokane. "We're asking people to understand what biblical principles are and to support the candidates that most closely align with them."
Sound the Alarm started in response to a series of court victories for supporters of gay marriage across the nation.
Organizers received responses from about 3,000 of the state's 5,200 registered churches, Tegman said.
The organization also held a rally at Safeco Field May 1. It drew about 20,000 people.
The Rev. Ron Armstrong said he was eager to bring Sound the Alarm's message to his congregation at MeadowWood Christian Center in the Spokane suburb of Liberty Lake.
"It's really motivated me to be a part of this and to inspire others to be a part," he said. "If the churches and congregations in the Spokane area take action, it will have an impact on the state and nation as a whole."