Now that same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina, will we soon see gay and lesbian weddings in Charlotte-area houses of worship?
The answer, depending on religious denomination, consensus of the congregation and will of the clergy, is: yes, no and maybe.
Clergy who have advocated for marriage equality – United Church of Christ, Reform Judaism and Unitarian Universalist – are already planning such wedding ceremonies in their sanctuaries. Other pastors and bishops who have opposed same-sex marriage as contrary to the Bible – Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic – say it doesn’t matter what the courts have said: The only weddings performed in their churches will be those between one man and one woman.
Then there are those denominations that, for now at least, are leaving the decision to local congregations. Some Presbyterian and Lutheran ministers may quickly open their doors to gay couples who want to set a date. Other ministers in those denominations may take it slow – or refuse any but traditional weddings.
“It’s on all of their radar screens,” said general presbyter the Rev. Betty Meadows about the churches in the seven-county Presbytery of Charlotte. “Our more conservative churches, the rural churches, are saying, by and large, that ‘we’re not going to do this.’ But I would think a majority of our churches are in the middle. They will have to wrestle and pray about it. It won’t be automatic.”
Still, some of those 109 Presbyterian churches welcomed the news Friday that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage had been struck down as unconstitutional.
The flock and lay leadership at Charlotte’s Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church have “long been clear in its support for marriage equality,” said the pastor, the Rev. John Cleghorn, who’s for it, too. “Some of my (gay) members have been married in other states. And … we will certainly be open to it.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s move last week to effectively expand to 30 the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal will also likely have a ripple effect on the debates within other denominations and churches. Those would include the United Methodist Church, which still prohibits same-sex marriage; the Episcopal Church, which has sanctioned same-sex blessings but not marriages; and African-American churches, which have traditionally been socially progressive but theologically conservative.
The Rev. Danny Trapp, who leads interfaith Mecklenburg Ministries, said his 100 or so member congregations tend to be “moderate to left-leaning.” But even within those ranks, he said, “there will be a great variety of responses” to the prospect of same-sex weddings.
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SOURCE: Charlotte Observer