OUR VIEW: The gay wedding project

Seldom do our reporters spend a combined 20 hours on any given story in our office. But it’s also rare that we get to watch a sweeping civil rights decision unfold. So this past week we gave our curiosity free rein.

Our quest started with a very simple question: How many churches would perform weddings for same-sex couples?

We knew there would have to be at least a couple. If 57 percent of Americans support gay marriage and 71 percent of Americans identify as Christian, there is some measurable overlap.

We were fairly certain the landslide of churches in our area would be against gay marriage, a thesis bore out by our calls. But we were less certain how the very question itself would be greeted by leaders of the faithful: Would it be met with hostility?

Let it be known that not a single member of the clergy responded with anger. One Baptist preacher was clearly upset at the notion of gay marriage, calling it “an abomination,” but even that emotion was clearly frustration and not harshness. Tones remained calm, yet often passionate on both sides of the issue.

We were surprised, however, by how many churches reacted by ignoring the question entirely.

Our reporters grew deeply interested in our mass phone call project as the week wore on, becoming absorbed by what different clergy offered to the conversation — though we admit that from time to time we “poked the bear.”

Reporters were instructed to ask the big question on calls (“Would your church accommodate a wedding for a same-sex wedding if asked?”). They were told to ask other questions if — and only if — pastors decided to offer further opinions unsolicited.

When they did, it was an invaluable chance to probe their beliefs and learn about the complex nature of faith. When preachers pushed, we sometimes asked how they balanced beliefs about homosexuality with beliefs about divorce, drinking, eating bacon, or slavery. We were treated to an incredible rainbow of theological and philosophical ideas.

And for that we’re grateful.