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Letter: I will vote 'no', I've changed my mind

I've changed my mind.

Two sets of my great grandparents settled north of Willmar in 1861 -- one pair on the east shore of Eagle Lake; the other on the south shore of Twin Lakes. It was their dream come true. After struggling to survive in the stony province of Smaland in Sweden, this was finally a place where they could settle down and raise their families.

That dream turned into a nightmare. They fled for their lives a year later during the Sioux Uprising.

Eventually the family settled in Litchfield, my hometown.

I grew up with a very negative attitude toward Native Americans. Through the eyes of my elders I saw them as savage and irreligious.

As I learned the full story, including the ill treatment of the natives by some of the U.S. government agents, my views changed.

Little could I have known that Paul Schultz, a full-blooded Ojibwa, would become a friend. A deeply spiritual fellow Lutheran, Paul taught me that our common love for Jesus was what mattered most.

I've been on the same journey of understanding with gay and lesbian folks. Forty years ago I thought all of them were emotionally warped and could be changed if they got counseling and prayed. But as I got to know more and more of them I took a second look at my views.

The first thing I did was study carefully those few verses in the Bible that refer same gender relationships. In time I came to see them as describing abusive and domineering sex, nothing like what I was seeing in a growing number of same gender friends who were in it for a lifetime, just like my wife and I have been for 58 years.

I'm not going to put another block in the way of these friends, folks who go to work every day, pay taxes, attend church, raise adopted children and love Jesus, just as I do.

I'll be voting "no" on Nov. 6.

Herbert W. Chilstrom

Former bishop, Minnesota Synod of the Lutheran Church in America

St. Peter,