SUFFOLK, Va. The United Church of Christ’s endorsement of same-sex marriage wasn’t the only disagreement Suffolk Christian Church had with the national group.
“Although for a lot of people, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said the Rev. Michael D. Halley, minister of the 145-year-old church, which agreed by more than a two-thirds majority in the fall to leave the 1.3 million-member denomination.
The action was in response to the vote by the UCC’s General Synod, a biennial meeting of delegates from member churches, affirming “equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender.”
Congregations also were asked to oppose campaigns that advocate constitutional amendments to limit marriage according to gender. Virginia is among the states with such a campaign. If the General Assembly votes again this year, as it did last year, to ban same-sex civil unions, the measure could go before the state’s voters as a constitutional amendment this fall.
As many as 25 congregations within the UCC’s Southern Conference, which includes eastern Virginia and all of North Carolina, have left since the vote, said the Rev. Stephen Camp, the conference’s administrator. Six new congregations have formed in the same period, leaving the conference with about 230 total.
The synod does not dictate policy to member churches and ministers are not required to provide marriage rites for gay couples.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2006.