Winston-Salem Church Prepares for Protests Over Same-Sex Marriage Stance
This weekend, members and supporters of Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem met to plan their response to individuals who have been protesting the church's stance on same-sex marriage.
It’s been a month since Members of the Leadership Council at Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem made a public statement about same-sex marriage.
Pastor Kelly Carpenter is supporting the council’s request not to marry heterosexual couples in the church sanctuary until same-sex couples can marry. Instead of marriage ceremonies, only relationship blessings will take place.
The council is also asking ministers to refuse signing any state marriage licenses until same sex couples can marry in North Carolina. But Over the past few weeks, a growing group of people have been gathering in front of the church to protest against Green Street’s stance on gay marriage.
Carpenter says he’s shocked by what’s occurring.
“On Monday, we got clear indication that a lot of people were very upset by what had happened when the protestors had yelled at children. They said some crude things. Racist, sexist slurs were being thrown at our folks and it was clearly intended so we would make a response,” says Carpenter.
Earlier this week, Carpenter responded. He posted a message to his Facebook page, asking church members not to engage in any confrontational behavior from protestors. Instead, he held an anti-violence training session with members and community supporters before Sunday’s service.
Carpenter cited the power of peaceful protests and gave some tips on how to avoid confrontation including avoid eye contact, conversations and any physical contact with the protestors.
Church member Tim Sturgis helped demonstrate some of these methods.
“I think it is always best to be non-violent. That's the way the Civil Rights Movement moved forward and Green Street is a place of love and I want it to continue to be a place of peace and love,” says Sturgis.
John Fultz of Winston-Salem showed up at Sunday’s service to support Green Street. He held a sign that said “Love wins all of the time”.
“I’m here to support the members of Green Street and their efforts to show that equal rights are for everybody. I’m here to show my support for love. It’s about love not about hate,” says Fultz.
In the meantime, several community members are volunteering to serve as escorts and peacekeepers for church members both inside and outside of the church.
None of the protestors showed up yesterday at Green Street, but church member Jennifer Snowhite says she’s prepared to respond to them if they re-appear.
“I think it is uplifting to the spirit and makes it a lot easier for us to respond with love when we know we are protected and our children are protected,” says Snowhite.
Carpenter says one positive aspect that has happened at Green Street since the church made its public statement on same-sex marriage, is that his congregation is growing. A record number of 351 people attended the church service Sunday.
He says he hopes the Winston-Salem church’s stance will influence future policy changes on same-sex marriage in the Methodist church and in the South.