N.C. Pastor Won’t Perform Weddings Until Gay Marriage Legalized
The pastor of a church in North Carolina said he they will not conduct any kind of wedding ceremony until same-sex marriage is legalized.
Green Street United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Kelly Carpenter told North Carolina's NBC-TV affiliate WXII that members of his congregation and its elders have agreed with him.
On Friday, the church's Facebook page stated, "The church sees injustice in the legal position of state government and the theological position of our denomination."
The statement also called on other ministers to join its cause. "Because the United Methodist Church prohibits its pastors from conducting same-sex weddings, excluding gay and lesbian couples from the holy sacrament of marriage, the Leadership Council has asked their pastor to refrain from conducting wedding ceremonies in our sanctuary for straight couples, until the denomination lifts its ban for same sex couples," the statement added.
Carpenter will instead hold "relationship blessings" for straight couples until North Carolina and the United Methodist Church agree that gay couples should be allowed to marry.
Carpenter told North Carolina's public radio station WFDD that his congregation currently has 15 gay and lesbian couples as members. Raw Story reported that Green Street is probably the first Methodist church in the South to prohibit weddings because of their support for marriage equality.
The United Methodist Church voted two years ago to continue its ban on same-sex marriage. Its bishops also voted to enforce rules against those pastors who continued to officiate at such weddings.
The Methodists began as a grassroots evangelical group in England in the 18th century. It was suppressed by the government, whose state religion was Anglican. The denomination took root in the American colonies.
Today, American Methodists are divided between the more liberal urban congregations and far more conservative rural ones. The United Methodist Church has 7.8 million members in the United States.
As more and more Americans have accepted marriage equality, the issue has increasingly become a thorn in the side of the Republican Party. Several of the party's elder statesmen and behind-the-scenes players are quietly urging the party either to let the issue drop or even come out for marriage equality.
Last week, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a leading policy statesmen for the party, made headlines when he announced he supported gay marriage after having strongly opposed it it for years after his won came out to him.
The issue has Protestant denominations in the center of the national debate on the issue. Several mainline Protestant denominations have been moving toward full acceptance of gay marriage, including The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In a sign that even evangelical churches are moving the needle, on March 17, Robe Bell, a controversial author and former pastor of one of the nation's most prominent megachurches, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., announced that same-sex marriage was compatible with his church's teachings. Grand Rapids, Mich. NBC affiliate Wood-TV.
"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs -- I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are," Bell said at a forum.