The congregation of a North Carolina-based Baptist church is taking an assertive stand in favor of marriage equality, prohibiting their pastor from legally marrying anyone until she can do the same for same-sex couples.
The 650 official congregants of Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church -- a progressive, gay-inclusive church -- said in a formal statement that the state's current law discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples "by denying them the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples," according to the News-Observer. "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 continued.
Pastor Nancy Petty, who is openly gay, told congregants earlier this year that signing legal marriage certificates to wed heterosexual couples while not doing the same for homosexual couples had become a burden on her conscience, according to the report. Although Petty will continue to perform wedding ceremonies, she will not sign the marriage certificate required to establish a legal marriage. "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 was quoted by the News-Observer as saying. "Their counter-witness to those who preach about a God whose love is exclusive and unwelcoming is nothing short of amazing grace."
Pullen Memorial's practice of offering holy unions for gay couples goes back 20 years, according to reports. Though still affiliated with American Baptist Churches in the USA, the Alliance of Baptists, and other groups, the church was kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992, and similarly disfellowshipped from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Raleigh Baptist Association.
"I'm perpetuating what I believe is an unjust law," Petty, pastor at Pullen since 2002, has said previously, according to Star News Online. 'I don't sign birth certificates. I don't sign death certificates. I do baptisms. I do funerals. There's no other ritual of the state that I have to sign a document."
Petty's case mirrors that of a senior Baptist minister in Australia, who is concerned for his job after coming out in support of same-sex marriage. "[The church membership is] happy with my work here, my preaching and my care of people struggling, they're all okay with that, it's just my option that the Government should recognize gay marriage which is the sticking point," Reverend Matt Glover of the Lilydale Baptist Church, who is married with two children, tells the Star Observer. "I've said the church doesn’t have to recgonize gay marriage, the church doesn't have to practice gay marriage, but I think the church needs to stand up for the right of gay people to have their relationships, their marriages, legally recognized by the Government," he said.