The Southern Province Synod of the Moravian Church recently approved two resolutions, including a measure that will allow gay and lesbian ministers to marry.
The Rev. David Guthrie of Winston-Salem, the president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, said that church leaders and congregants have spent two years talking about the issues addressed in the resolutions.
“We have not had restrictions about gay and lesbian members being ordained,” Guthrie said in an email. “Prior to this decision, they would have been expected to be single and celibate. This Synod’s decision would allow them, along with all members, to be married.”
The resolutions also outline the roles of church leaders and acknowledge the church’s different opinions about homosexuality.
One resolution allows the leaders of individual churches to decide who will serve as pastors, who can be married in the church and who will be admitted as members, according to the church’s website.
“We respect those decisions of the local church boards and pastors,” Guthrie said.
The other resolution states “that any person, group, congregation agency and entity within the Southern Province retains the right to make opinions related to LGBTQ issues ... without fear of recrimination, provided such opinions live up to our covenant: ‘We will not hate, despise, slander, or otherwise injure anyone.”
About 200 voting delegates met April 19-22 in Black Mountain. The majority of those delegates approved these two resolutions and 20 other measures regarding various aspects of the Moravian Church, Guthrie said. The Southern Province consists of 56 Moravian churches, including several in Winston-Salem.
The synod’s resolutions about its church leaders and its views on homosexuality attracted public attention.
The synod, the church’s governing body, affirmed that “our unity in Christ is far greater than our differing views and understanding about homosexuality,” Guthrie said. “We can be welcoming, respectful and loving toward one another in our differences.”
The Rev. John D. Rights, the pastor of Konnoak Hills Moravian Church, said that the resolutions reflect Moravians’ various beliefs.
“These two resolutions respect this diversity, while calling each of us to be open to accepting within the province the wedding of couples and the ordaining of individuals without consideration of sexual orientation,” Rights said in an email. “No doubt, the disagreement openly and passionately expressed on the floor of synod reflects the same disagreement that exists in the larger province between church boards, pastors, neighboring Moravian congregations and people worshiping together in the pew.”
Brent Childers, the director of faith outreach for Equality NC, an advocacy group for LGBTQ rights, said the church’s resolution on open discussion of LGBTQ issues is appropriate.
“Such dialogue inevitably leads to full affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,” Childers said in an email.
He also criticized the resolution’s allowing discussion of “LGBTQ” people because “church scribes (did) not take the time to simply write out the words lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“They fail to see how such a resolution itself causes injury by — to a noticeable degree — denying the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,” Childers said. “Such denial causes great injury.”
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