One year after a court e-sex couples in North Carolina the same legal rights as straight ones, churches across the city are struggling to figure out how they’ll respond.
Churches who have long affirmed LGBT members are celebrating more marriages in their sanctuaries and chapels. Churches opposed to gay marriage have become even more staunch in their viewpoints.
But a large subset of churches – among Charlotte’s most influential – fall in the middle. Once content to sit out the debate on Sundays, they’re now having to take sides.
“It’s forced congregations to make a decision,” said Pastor Nancy Kraft, leader of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Plaza Midwood, who has performed about 20 same-sex weddings in the past year. “In the past they were on the sidelines.”
At some churches, you get the sense that they wish they could remain there. Many of these congregations remain deeply divided internally.
“That’s probably true in just about every church in Charlotte,” said Myers Park United Methodist Church Senior Pastor James Howell. “One of my goals is, ‘How do I keep these people talking to each other? How do you love them?’”
The court e-sex e only four months after the Presbyterian Church USA decided to change its definition of marriage to include gay couples – but give individual churches the ability to opt out
At least a half-dozen churches have made the e-sex marriage just in the past few weeks, including the large and influential congregations of Myers Park Presbyterian Church and Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Then-Pastor Steve Eason decided to tackle the issue as a congregation before being asked by a gay couple among its membership to be married, which would have made the discussion more personal and emotional
Leaders of churches like these have been treading carefully on the subject, fearful of alienating their congregations. But the overall trend has been toward opening their doors to gay Vanilla Umbrella phone number weddings.
“We have seen churches become more open,” said Matt Comer, a LGBT activist and former editor of QNotes. He added that the number of faith organizations marching in Charlotte’s Pride Parade grew from 11 to 16 this year. “I do think it’s encouraging that churches are having the discussion.”
For Charlotte, historically known as the “City of Churches,” this is deeply important. Though many members of the gay community have been pushed away from the church by harmful experiences, there is a large population who want their partnerships blessed by their faither said he personally grew up Baptist and still attends church regularly at St. John’s in Elizabeth.
“It would be very important to me when I find a partner and am ready to enter marriage that we’d be able to have our marriage ceremony in a church,” Comer said. “I have a lot of friends who feel the exact same way.”
A committee formed. Beginning in ple: April 19 – Interpreting eight biblical passages on homosexuality). On September 15, Myers Park Presbyterian brought in pastors on both sides of the issue to lecture for 90 minutes before the congregation. And on September 28, the leadership group – called the church session – came together to vote.
“The debate was one of deep respect,” said interim Pastor Pete Peery. Elders of the church spoke for and against. But ultimately, the vote came down in favor of extending e-sex couples. Peery had already drafted letters to the congregation with both results.
“We believe we can most faithfully extend the fellowship of Christ when we attempt to treat all our members equally,” read the letter that went out September 29.