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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 47
No one can marry until everyone can marry, NC Baptist church says
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No one can marry until everyone can marry, NC Baptist church says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The congregation of a Baptist church in Raleigh, North Carolina, voted on November 20 to prohibit their pastor from marrying anyone until same-sex couples can marry under North Carolina law.

A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has been approved by the North Carolina legislature and may go before voters as early as May 2012.

The congregation of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church said in a formal statement that current North Carolina law banning same-sex marriage, and the language of the proposed amendment, discriminate against same-sex couples 'by denying them the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.'

'As people of faith, affirming the Christian teaching that before God all people are equal, we will no longer participate in this discrimination,' the church's statement says.

The vote on the statement was unanimous. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, some of the congregation wept as they stood to vote in favor of the 'statement on marriage ceremonies.'

Pastor Nancy Petty, a Lesbian, began the discussion on same-sex marriage this summer when she told her congregation that signing legal marriage certificates for opposite-sex couples while not doing the same for homosexual couples had become a burden on her conscience.

The congregation held several meetings afterward, resulting in Sunday's statement on marriage. It was written by church deacons and affirmed by the congregation.

Petty said the decision was more than she expected after expressing her concerns this past summer. She has performed about 150 ceremonies in 20 years, she said, evenly split between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

'Their statement today on marriage equality continues their long-standing tradition of speaking out on behalf of God's love, compassion, and justice in the world,' Petty said.

'Their counter-witness to those who preach about a God whose love is exclusive and unwelcoming is nothing short of amazing grace.'

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church has about 650 members and has long been known for taking an active role on social and political issues.

The church was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 after a decision to bless same-sex marriages. Pullen is now a part of the more liberal American Baptist Churches USA denomination.

Seattle's First Baptist and University Baptist Churches are also affiliated with the American Baptists.

One of the deacons, Bernard Cochran, told the News & Observer that current laws on same-sex marriage 'deny justice' to Gay people and are rooted in the same 'alleged biblical grounds' as slavery was.

'Pullen rejects this sincere but misguided understanding of the Bible,' said Cochran, a retired Meredith College professor.

'This is the church, not just its minister, standing up to discrimination as a body,' he added.

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