Churches are split on how to handle gay marriages now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment ensures equal rights for same-sex couples.
Following the high court’s decision, we reached out to churches in our area to find which will and which will not perform weddings between two men or two women.
We found diverse views.
Of the 54 churches we called across our Amherst, Oberlin, and Wellington coverage areas, seven said their pastors would officiate over gay weddings, 30 said they would not, and 15 declined to comment or did not return multiple calls seeking comment. Two churches did not have a clear answer.
In Amherst, only one church — Heritage Presbyterian — said it would perform such weddings. Pastor Lou Will chose not to speak with us about that stance.
However, the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, issued a statement saying his denomination adopted a policy that “lifts up the sanctity of marriage and the commitment of loving couples within the church” while allowing elders to exercise discretion in officiating weddings.
David Plant, interim pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, said he honestly does not know whether his congregation has a formal stance. He plans to pose that question to the church board next week.
Plant said he personally would officiate at a same-sex wedding and in fact has done so in the past when the church recognized them only as “blessings and unions.”
“The reason I feel comfortable is that I think the science is now clear that people are created in the image of God and people in the LGBT community are created that way,” he said.
Scripture in the past has been used to justify slavery, limited voting rights for women, prohibition, and bans on divorce and interracial marriage, he said. Homosexuality can be viewed in the same “cultural light,” Plant argued.
“All that at one point was justified by scripture,” Plant said. “But as we grow in our faith some of this changes.”
Other churches, such as Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ, have “started a dialogue” about whether to affirm gay and lesbian unions.
A cadre of believers there have asked leadership to consider formally approving of same-sex marriage but so far the local church has taken no official stance, said administrative secretary Renee Hess.
Some pastors told the News-Times there is no such movement among their congregations.
“It’s not about hate, the discussion, but more about debate,” said the Rev. Arnold Fleagle of Trinity Evangelical Free Church. “We want to love individuals who don’t agree with us but we also want to operate on a biblical foundation.”
Roman Catholic parishes in our area directed us to the Cleveland Diocese, which issued a formal statement endorsing only marriage between one man and one woman.
“Every nation has laws limiting who can be married and under what circumstances. This is because lawmakers always have understood that marriage does not exist just for the mutual satisfaction of the two people involved, but for the betterment of society,” it said. “Traditional marriage is the cradle of the family, the basic building block of society. As Pope Francis has reminded us, every child has a right to be raised by two parents, a father and a mother. Both parents are important and they are not interchangeable.”
The Diocese statement called the Supreme Court’s decision “disappointing and worrisome.”
Many other religious organizations have drawn lines in the sand on the national and international levels.
To date, same-sex marriage has been sanctioned by the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Presbyterian Church, Quakers (Society of Friends), Unitarian Universalist Church, Conservative Jewish Movement, and Reform Jewish Movement.
Others, like the Roman Catholic Church, have explicitly prohibited same-sex marriage: American Baptist Churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Orthodox Jewish Movement, and Islam.
The Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling is clear – clergy who oppose gay and lesbian unions are not required to perform such weddings.
It’s likely, however, that their resolve will be tested in coming years.
That’s because public opinion continues to swing in favor of marriage equality.
A full 57 percent of the U.S. population now supports same-sex marriage, according to a Pew Research survey released in early June. Only 37 percent of respondents said they oppose it.
Those attitudes reflect a marked change since 2001. The numbers have almost exactly flip-flopped in the past 14 years.
And it’s not just the young whose minds have changed.
Pew found that same-sex marriage favorability has risen significantly across the Silent Generation (1928-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), and Millennials (1981 and older).
A positive shift is also evident among religious groups, though not to quite the same extent.
White evangelical Protestants still take the hardest line in the U.S. with only 27 percent favoring same-sex marriage. Thirty-three percent of black Protestants approve.
Among Catholics, a majority – 56 percent – favor same-sex marriage, and 62 percent of white “mainline” Protestants approve.
Those who say they are religious but unaffiliated with any group are the most supportive at 85 percent.
A huge split is also visible along political lines.
Democrats and Independents each largely favor gay marriage, with 65 percent in support. Only 34 percent of Republicans approve.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter. Valerie Urbanik and Kelsey Leyva contributed to this story.
|CHURCH NAME||WILL OFFICIATE||WILL NOT OFFICIATE||DECLINED TO COMMENT||UNDECIDED|
|Mount Zion Baptist Church||X|
|Calvary Baptist Church||X|
|Grace Lutheran Church||X|
|Park Street Seventh-Day Adventist Church||X|
|The First Church in Oberlin||X|
|Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship||X|
|East Oberlin Community Church||X|
|First United Methodist Church||X|
|Rust United Methodist Church||X|
|Life Builders Foursquare Church||X|
|Christ Episcopal Church||X|
|Oberlin Missionary Alliance Church||X|
|Pittsfield Community Church||X|
|Peace Community Church||X|
|Oberlin Friends (Quakers)||X|
|Christ Temple Apostolic Church||X|
|Sacred Heart Church||X|
|Abundant Grace Evangelical Free Church||X|
|Green Pastures Baptist Church||X|
|The Kipton Community Church||X|
|Oberlin House of the Lord Fellowship||X|
|Family Fellowship Foursquare Church||X|
|New Beginnings Church of Christ||X|
|Amherst Church of the Nazarene||X|
|Trinity Evangelical Free Church||X|
|St. Paul Lutheran Church||X|
|Good Shepherd Baptist Church||X|
|Eversprings Missionary Baptist Church||X|
|Heritage Presbyterian Church||X|
|Great Lakes Church||X|
|Cornerstone Community Church||X|
|St. Joseph Catholic Church||X|
|Nativity BVM Catholic Church||X|
|Amherst Congregational United Church of Christ||X|
|St. Peter’s United Church of Christ||X|
|A Fresh Wind Church||X|
|Amherst United Methodist Church||X|
|Faith Baptist Church||X|
|St. Patrick’s Catholic Church||X|
|First Congregational United Church of Christ||X|
|First United Methodist Church||X|
|Pittsfield Community Church||X|
|Camden Baptist Church||X|
|Brighton United Methodist Church||X|
|Rochester United Methodist Church||X|
|Wellington Freewill Baptist Church||X|
|United Church of Huntington||X|
|Lincoln Street Chapel||X|
|New Life Assembly of God||X|
|Penfield Community Church||X|
|Bethany Lutheran Church||X|
|First Baptist Church||X|
|Christ Community Church||X|
|Note: Churches that did not reply to phone messages seeking a stance were counted in the “declined to comment” column.|
Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media
The Rev. Mary Grigolia of Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship married a same-sex couple on July 5.