WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Southern Province of the Moravian Church in North America has approved new rules allowing for the marriage of LGBTQ clergy and of LGBTQ church members.
Based in Winston-Salem, the Southern Moravians made the decision at a recent provincial synod in Black Mountain last month.
The decision came in a pair of resolutions: first, allowing for the marriage of clergy and members to same-gender partners and, second, reaffirming the church’s historic values of unity, while also respecting difference of opinion and belief.
That first resolution allows individual churches to make determinations on who can pastor their church and who can be married in their church. The second 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.”
The Rev. David Guthrie, president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, said the decision had been two years in the making.
“We have not had restrictions about gay and lesbian members being ordained,” Guthrie said in an email to The Winston-Salem Journal. “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 decision will also let individual churches determine who can become members.
“We respect those decisions of the local church boards and pastors,” Guthrie said.
The decision has been mostly welcomed by Moravian leaders. The Rev. John D. Rights, pastor of Winston-Salem’s Konnoak Hills Moravian Church, said the decisions reflect and respect the diversity of beliefs in the church.
“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 told the Winston-Salem newspaper. “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.”
The Southern Moravian province is based in Winston-Salem, which has one of the highest concentrations of Moravian congregations in the nation. The Northern Province, based in Bethlehem, Penn., affirmed marriage rights for LGBTQ clergy and members in 2014.
Globally, the Moravian Church is split on the issue of LGBTQ inclusion. Some provinces, like province in the Eastern Caribbean, have passed opposing resolutions on the issue.