EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 11, 2012

Welcoming everyone

Coalition of Merrimack Valley churches promotes equality, inclusiveness to gays

(Continued)

The Rev. Jeff Gill, pastor of Christ Church said the statement was a way to let the public know the congregation does not discriminate.

"For too long people believed, including the church, that homosexuality was about behavior and it was easy to create a moral category this is bad and we don't accept it," Gill said.

Although the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire received a lot of publicity when it elected the Rev. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop, the denomination has not come into grips with same-sex marriage. Episcopal church leaders are formulating rites for blessing same-sex unions, which will be considered at their General Convention this July in Indianapolis.

Despite the progress many denominations have made in being open and affirming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, issues remain.

Last summer, a Methodist church court convicted a pastor for performing a same-sex union. Other denominations like the Presbyterians voted in May to allow openly gay clergy,

Manny Correa had sworn off organized religion, until he started going to South Church in Andover.

After the church voted to become an open and affirming congregation, a woman put her hand on Correa's shoulder and told him, "Now we can truly welcome you to our church."

"This is just such an amazing community. You get the message this is a place that everyone is welcome and I really felt that way," Correa said.

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