North Carolina Church Refuses to Marry Heterosexual Couples Until Gays and Lesbians Can Get Married, Too

Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina says it won’t perform any marriages between opposite-sex couples until same-sex couples can legally marry in the church as well.

The church’s 18-member leadership council has requested that pastors conduct “relationship blessings” in lieu of formal marriages until the United Methodist Church, which also bans gays and lesbians from serving as clergy, changes its anti-marriage-equality stance. (It’s not clear whether these “relationship blessings” will be available to same-sex couples too, but one would assume.)

“On the matter of gay marriage, the church sees injustice in the legal position of state government and the theological position of our denomination,” the church’s spokespeople said in a statement. “North Carolina prohibits same-sex marriage and all the rights and privileges marriage brings. The leadership council has asked that their ministers join others who refuse to sign any state marriage licenses until this right is granted to same-sex couples.”

Situated in North Carolina, where 60 percent of the population voted to ban gay marriage via Amendment One last year, Green Street says they are an isolated example of LGBT acceptance in the local religious community, and it looks like it might stay that way:

“Green Street is presently the only reconciling congregation in the western North Carolina Conference,” the statement said. “With a growing number of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) members, Green Street seeks to be a public witness to its community, conference and denomination.” …

“I don’t know that we are out to change anyone’s minds,” the Rev. Kelly Carpenter, the church’s pastor, told WFDD (88.5 FM) radio Friday.

As great as it is to see a gay-friendly church, I’m not convinced that this is a real solution. The idea is not new, particularly with regards to legal marriage; among other celebrity couples, actress Kristen Bell and her fiancé Dax Shepard refuse to wed until the legal right is extended to all couples, and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt made a similar vow a while back (though some gay rights advocates praised their recent decision to get married anyway).

However, straight couples holding off on marriage might send a different message than what LGBT activists are going for. The idea is that marriage is not something that can simply be put off until it’s convenient; it’s a deeply meaningful right that should be available to anyone and everyone.

Regarding Brad and Angelina back in April 2012:

“Marriage says ‘we are a family’ in a way that no other word can. It appears that even Brad and Angelina’s children understand the meaning of that special vow,” said Rebekah Orr, Communications Director for Equality California. “We would never want any committed couple to deny themselves and their families the happiness and security that marriage brings.”

Gay-friendly churches, especially, shouldn’t be using this strategy; already few and far between, churches that embrace LGBT families would contribute much more to the movement by actually marrying same-sex couples who want a religious ceremony. (It’s certainly not unheard of, even if those marriages wouldn’t necessarily be recognized by the greater church.)

When well-meaning straight allies put off marriage for the sake of LGBT people, they aren’t changing anyone’s minds. Instead, they’re conveying to anti-gay groups that marriage really isn’t that important, that marriage can wait, and that we’ll settle for inequality. And that’s the wrong message.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a recent college graduate working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • C Peterson

    Wow, a Christian church that’s making an effort to be… Christian. That’s not something you hear about very often!

    • coyotenose

      Well, they’re Methodists, who, anecdotally speaking, tend to be either very progressive or very… not. I don’t think I’ve yet met a Methodist who was middle-of-the-road.

      • 3lemenope

        I can’t even say I’ve met a Methodist who was very not, but my sample is biased by my location.

        • A3Kr0n

          As someone who was actually confirmed a Methodist long, long ago, I can say they are pretty laid back. Check out TTA’s interview with a Methodist minister. He admitted he thought atheists were more moral than Christians!
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEeEEpNarDc

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            i too was ‘confirmed’ as a Methodist, way back in the day (to please a grandparent, did not go to church ever after the confirmation). i agree that they are Mild. there are some progressive Methodists out there, and some fundie ones, but where i’m from they are the Most Bland version of christianity you can find.

            • A3Kr0n

              I did it for my mom with the deal I’d never have to go back to church again. I got confirmed, and never went back to church again. She still invites me to go from time to time though.

      • http://twitter.com/WoodwindsRock Emma

        What exactly would you call “middle-of-the-road”? My family are Methodists (and I am technically a member of a Methodist church, although I obviously don’t believe anymore.), and my mom believes in civil unions but not marriage. Frustrating, but I’m not getting into arguments. I’d consider that more along the lines of middle-of-the-road, though.

  • Dezzydez

    Their hearts are in the right place, but this church’s decision does not help. Their members should marry if they choose and still advocate for equality. No worries. Marriage equality is a done deal as long as LGBT and their allies keep the fight up. It’s good to have another ally like this church. They can make changes within their institution that outsiders could not.

  • http://twitter.com/cryofly anuran

    That is queer! It does strengthen my faith in human goodness, not the illusions that churches (temples, mosques, pagodas, and all sorts of human rock arrangements) have wrought upon us.

  • Johnathan Fullman

    In my view, the real solution is a total church/state separation with respect to marriage. Just like baptism registrars were separated from the census. Let pastors perform marriage ceremonies but don’t make them legally binding in any way. Let the churches put whatever dumb restriction they want on it. Let the state (and only the state) issue civil union certificates (for same-sex and opposite sex couples). What would happen if we stopped mixing the two?

    • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

      An excellent solution. I feel that lately the religious nut-cases have tarnished the term “marriage” to the extent that I would gladly re-name my relationship with my husband a “civil union”. I don’t want to be associated with those crazies in any way at all!

    • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

      That’s how it works in Europe and Latin America. Some people choose to only have a civil wedding, most then have the religious ceremony as well.

  • observer

    See, homophobic Christians? a church can even say no to straight marriages, I grantee they can just as equally say no to gay ones.

  • A3Kr0n

    Go Green Street Methodists!

  • SeekerLancer

    It’s a nice gesture. I applaud them for taking a stance.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    I also think they should perform religious weddings for all couples in their tradition. But I think they’re not so that they don’t get kicked out of their denomination. Their church may rely a lot of their denomination.

  • Sven2547

    I was in an argument with an opponent of same-sex marriage. He told me he was opposed to government “telling churches what to do” (I kept trying to explain that nobody is forcing anything on churches).

    I asked him: what about churches who DO want to conduct same-sex marriages? Do you have no objection to that?

    He replied, “If a Church wants to conduct a same-sex marriage, then the Antichrist rules that place, if it was ever a church to begin with.”

    Yup. They really are that crazy.

    • John (not McCain)

      So basically he wants the government to say which churches count as churches and which don’t. That’s sure to work out well.

  • Mick

    Just a cheap PR stunt in my opinion. The church will score some headlines and maybe gain a couple of new (hopefully tithe-paying) members, and then they’ll head back to the Sunday School, and continue teaching nonsense to the children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    I think they are going about this the wrong way. The Unitarians in Utah have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies for as long as I can remember (at least since the 70′s) in spite of the fact that they have no legal standing. That seems like a much better approach than no weddings.

  • Turtle Smith

    You know, for a church that is supposed to be teaching God’s word I would run as far away as possible. I read on the CNN news ticker that this church thinks the Bible is “silent” on the subject of same-sex marriages. Let me fill them in briefly: Leviticus is not silent. Also, they said that we live in a different world. The times may be different but God’s word speaking to the people is not – God is, was, and always will be as will His word. Let’s see, and I quote, “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense” (Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13). Sounds pretty cut and dry simple to me – Shame on the pastor for leading his congregation so far astray!