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Unitarian Universalist minister who worked for marriage equality retires after 6 years in Bangor

Rev. Becky Gunn

Rev. Becky Gunn
Posted July 24, 2014, at 1:05 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — When the Rev. Becky Gunn was hired by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor six years ago, she had one thing in common with one of her predecessors who had served the Park Street church in the mid-19th century.

Gunn, like the Rev. Amory Battles when he was hired in 1851, did not perform weddings.

Battles did not perform weddings until after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, because to be licensed by the state to marry couples, he had to swear an allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, which sanctioned slavery.

On the other hand, Gunn refused to officiate at any marriage ceremonies until same-sex couples were given the legal right to marry in Maine.

When she was interviewed for the job, Gunn told the hiring committee: “I would not marry anyone until I could marry everyone.”

Gunn, 66, retired June 30, just one month shy of her starting date of Aug. 1, 2008. She said in mid-June that health issues were the reason for retirement, and she planned to return to the West Coast, where she has lived most of her adult life.

“I’m no longer able to give the 110 percent required for ministry,” she said.

In assessing her impact on the church and the community, Gunn said she would like to be remembered for her very public role in the campaigns for same-sex marriage in 2009 and 2012.

“Those were intense times, and I think my leadership was important,” Gunn said. “When we ultimately passed the law — to be able to have all people marry — it was so wonderful for me.”

Her only disappointment was that since voters approved same-sex marriage in November 2012, she only performed about a dozen weddings.

“Not as many as I’d hoped,” she said.

To read entire article, please click on this link:


Ky. Baptist Church to Perform First Same-Sex Wedding

The church is in the more liberal range of Baptist beliefs, but there has still been some tension surrounding the move.

BY Trudy Ring

July 03 2014 3:46 PM ET


In a groundbreaking move that has upset some members, Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., has announced plans to perform its first same-sex marriage in the spring, reports The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

In May, Highland Baptist will solemnize the union of David Bannister Jr. and Steven Carr. “It takes courage to step out into the unknown,” Pastor Joe Phelps told the newspaper. “It’s taking us courage to be one of the first churches to do this.”

Highland Baptist is not part of the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention, which strongly opposes marriage equality and considers homosexuality a sin. The Louisville church ended its Southern Baptist affiliation about 20 years ago over theological differences. It is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which allows member churches to set their own policies on LGBT issues (although the fellowship will not employ so-called practicing homosexuals on its own staff), and the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, which embraces a policy of “diversity and openness to any believer God calls to leadership and ministry,” according to its website.

Phelps, who joined Highland Baptist in 1997, said the church has gradually become an LGBT-welcoming congregation during his tenure. In 2012 it ordained a gay man, the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, who now leads the church’s gay ministry and also is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage.

To read entire article, please click here:


Obama Praises LGBT Activists at Event Attended by Southern Baptist Pastor Who Rejects Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality

Obama Praises LGBT Activists at Event Attended by Southern Baptist Pastor Who Rejects Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality

By Morgan Lee , Christian Post Reporter
July 2, 2014|3:30 pm

President Barack Obama highlighted Monday his administration's efforts to bolster the gay community at a reception celebrating LGBT Pride Month, which was attended by a Southern Baptist pastor who recently broke with his denomination on the homosexuality issue, and his gay son.


Danny Cortez, who leads New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California, rejected his denomination's stance on homosexuality by deciding to accept the LGBT community without teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin. He and his 15-year-old son, Drew, who came out as a gay earlier this year, received an invitation to the presidential reception, which was also attended by First Lady Michelle Obama.

A lot has happened in the year since we last gathered here together. Same-sex marriage has gone into effect in 10 more states, which means that 43 percent of Americans now live in states where you're free to marry who you love," Obama noted. "The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. Harvey Milk got a stamp. Laverene Cox was on the cover of Time. Coca-Cola and Honeymaid were unafraid to sell their products in commercials showing same-sex parents and their children."

The president congratulated "those of you who fought the good fight" on "the tremendous progress we've made as a society."

"So I want to thank all of you for making the United States a more just and compassionate place. I want to thank you for offering support and guidance to our administration. Because of your help, we've gone further in protecting the rights of lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender Americans than any administration in history," he added.

In June, New Heart split following the pastor's decision to transform the church into a "Third Way" church.

According to Cortez, as a Third Way church, the Southern Baptist congregation would "accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment. We will work toward graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences. We see that this is possible in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage. In this issue we are able to not cast judgment in our disagreement."

Cortez explained the journey that led him to change his beliefs about homosexuality in a letter to progressive Christian blogger John Shore, founder of Unfundamentalist Christians, last month.

"I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year," Cortez wrote.

After reading many of Shore's writings and hearing testimony from gay friends who felt marginalized, Cortez said his "eyes became open to the injustice that the church has wrought" and in August 2013, he said he "realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality."

To read entire article including the congregation's transition, please click on this link:


Supreme Court ruling casts doubt on legality of Portland’s clinic buffer zone

Anti-abotion protesters who sued over the city’s restricted area near Planned Parenthood hope the decision in a Massachusetts case helps their free-speech argument.

By Matt Byrne Staff Writer

Attorneys for anti-abortion activists who are suing to overturn Portland’s ban on protests in a buffer zone around an abortion clinic were encouraged Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts.

In the 9-0 decision, the nation’s highest court ruled that Massachusetts’ law banning protesters from 35-foot zones around the entrances to abortion clinics is an unconstitutional infringement on the demonstrators’ free-speech rights.

To read entire article, please click on this link:


Presbyterian general assembly votes to open doors to marriage equality


An important vote today by the General Assembly of the PCUSA.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, a church with nearly 2 million members, affirmed the marriages of same-sex couples. The General Assembly, by a 429-175 vote, passed an amendment to change the description of marriage in the PCUSA church constitution from a relationship between “a man and a woman” to that between “two people.”

This amendment will only become church law when approved by a majority of the church’s 172 presbyteries.

At that time, all couples can be married in their home congregations.

In another measure, by a 371-238 vote, the General Assembly passed an amendment now allowing clergy in marriage equality states to perform marriages.

"This is a giant step forward for the PCUSA Church and for people of faith everywhere. Presbyterian LGBT couples are now one step closer to being able to get married in the church of their choice,” said Sharon Groves, director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program. “Perhaps even more significantly, young people and their families can go into a Presbyterian church and know that their denomination has not turned a blind eye to them but has instead taken a giant step toward becoming a more loving and more welcoming place for all people to worship.”

Read entire article here: