News Articles

N.C. church opens doors for same-sex marriages

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)–In a 90-33 vote, Wake Forest Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., will allow its ministers to officiate at same-sex weddings.
The Nov. 15 vote also asked God to bless such unions but stopped short of an affirmation of same-sex unions in an earlier motion, according to a Nov. 16 report in the Winston-Salem Journal about the church’s two-hour, 15-minute, closed-door, yet “emotion-packed” meeting.
”Regardless of how they phrase it, they’re sanctioning same-sex marriage,” Mac Brunson, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and a pastor in High Point, told the Journal. Brunson predicted the convention will sever its relationship with the church.
In 1992, the state convention severed ties with two churches over homosexual issues after Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh sanctioned a marriage-like union of two homosexual men and Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill licensed a homosexual divinity student to the ministry.
In October, Wake Forest Baptist Church voted to recognize and respect decisions to participate in same-sex unions and to approve using church facilities for such ceremonies, the Journal reported, noting some congregation members urged that the church be clearer and go beyond tolerance to affirmation.
The church’s Nov. 15 statement notes in part: ”… though we cannot, as a church, bless any relationship, we do with joy petition God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, that He bless, insofar as it conforms to his will, any and all loving, committed and exclusive relationships between two people.”
The Journal described the church’s pastor, Richard Groves, as saying his church did not want to leave the North Carolina convention and he didn’t think the statement would cause that to happen.
The 325-member church was established on the campus of Wake Forest University in 1956, the year the college moved to Winston-Salem from Wake Forest near Raleigh. Officials of the Baptist-related university told the Journal the university has no governing power over the church.
Groves told the Journal the statement is a compromise between those who wanted the church to affirm same-sex unions and their opponents. But Joe Foster of Winston-Salem, a sponsor of the original motion, told the Journal he was disappointed and voted against the statement. Foster and the co-sponsor of that motion, Susan Parker, also of Winston-Salem, are both open homosexuals and members of the church’s deacon body.
Parker told the Journal that the fact their ministers can now perform same-sex marriages should make homosexual and lesbian members more comfortable.
The church has had a couple of requests to be the site of same-sex ceremonies but definite plans have not yet been made, pastor Groves told the newspaper.
In the past 10 years, openly homosexual members have taken positions on the deacon board, in the choir and as Sunday school teachers, church members told the Journal. Not everyone has embraced these changes, and some members have left the church over its openness to homosexuals, the newspaper said.
In 1992, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a constitutional amendment declaring churches that approve homosexual behavior as “not in friendly cooperation” and thus not eligible to send messengers to annual convention meetings.
Groves told the Journal the Winston-Salem church soon will begin deliberations over leaving the SBC.