Area religious leaders divided on same-sex unions

Local religious leaders remain divided on whether couples of the same sex should be allowed to marry.

Some area churches are discussing performing ‘blessing’ ceremonies to mark the unofficial union of same-sex couples.

“Our parish board is taking up the issue at our meeting this Monday,” said the Rev. Thomas Reeder, of Christ Episcopal Church. “I, for one, as the pastor have already made my views known to the parish for years now that I’m in favor of same-sex blessings.”

In those denominations, like the Episcopal and the United Church of Christ, that have endorsed same-sex marriage at the national level, individual churches or dioceses make their own decisions on the issue.

“When the UCC passes an amendment or an edict, it applies as a whole,” said the Rev. Dr. Karin Stork-Whitson, of New Covenant United Church of Christ. “It does not mandate local congregations to endorse that, or even to be welcoming of people from the gay community.”

“The Episcopal church tries to have a wide breadth of conservative and liberal views,” said the Rev. Ken Wagner-Pizza, of Trinity Episcopal Church. “Jesus is our focus we have different opinions on everything ranging from this to abortion to politics.”

Trinity is also considering having same-sex blessing ceremonies, Wagner-Pizza said.

There is concern from some that any national decision approving gay marriage might affect what can be said in church for those who do not approve the practice.

“Keeping the freedom of what we say behind the pulpit as opposed to a state legislation or censorship is important,” said the Rev. Mike Holcomb, of The Door Fellowship. “I know a lot of my pastor friends feel the same thing. Politically speaking we should really give more power to the states.”

Differing interpretations of the Bible underlie the diverse Christian positions on homosexual unions.

“It’s a biblical principle that all people be treated equally,” Stork-Whitson said. “My late spouse and I never for a moment believed that allowing same-sex marriage would in any way affect the quality or efficacy of our marriage.”

“Biblically we see that homosexuality is something that God forbids and so that’s our position there,” Holcomb said. “We confirm what traditional marriage is one man and one woman.”

“Because God chose fallen, broken human beings to be the conduits of his message of grace and love, we can therefore see evidence of what I call ‘human fingerprints’ on the scriptures,” Reeder said. “When we understand that, we can begin to understand how scriptural prohibitions against homosexuality are as irrelevant today as scriptural prohibitions against eating shellfish, mixing fabrics, or women speaking in church.”