Preacher and her bride take vows

CorrespondentJanuary 12, 2012 

  • On May 8, North Carolinians will vote whether to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The amendment would bar legal recognition of any union besides marriage between one man and one woman, including civil unions and domestic partnerships for gay and straight couples.

  • In 2005, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ voted to legally recognize and advocate in favor of same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Each UCC church has local autonomy, so congregations can adopt or reject this recommendation.

    Presbyterian Church USA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, a position the General Assembly reaffirmed in 2010. However, in 2000 the church's highest judicial body issued a decision to allow its ministers to bless same-sex unions so long as the ceremonies were not considered marriage. The church also urged state legislatures to give same-sex couples the right to be joined in civil unions.

    United Methodist Church law prohibits clergy from performing same-sex marriages, and a minister who takes part in such a ceremony may have ordination revoked.

    Although the Episcopal Church has not explicitly established a position in favor of same-sex marriage, in 2006 the church stated its "support of gay and lesbian persons and [opposition to] any state or federal constitutional amendment" prohibiting same-sex marriages or civil unions. Furthermore, in 2009 the church's national convention voted to give bishops the option to bless same-sex unions.

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America defines marriage as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman." In August 2009, however, the church adopted a social statement on human sexuality that supports a wide diversity of families, including those of same-gender couples.

    Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod takes a different stance on the question. In 2006, the church reaffirmed its position that same-sex marriage is "contrary to the will of the Creator."

    Southern Baptist Convention opposes gay marriage and has called on "Southern Baptists not only to stand against same-sex unions but to demonstrate our love for those practicing homosexuality by sharing with them the forgiving and transforming power of the Gospel."

    Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage in 2005.

    There is no universal Buddhist position on same-sex marriage.

    The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes same-sex marriage on the ground that "marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman."

    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse same-sex marriage. Its theology stipulates that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God."

    The Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish movements support gay and lesbian rights, including same-sex marriage. The Conservative movement, which as a whole does not sanctify gay marriage, allows individual rabbis to choose to recognize same-sex unions. Orthodox Judaism does not accept same-sex marriage.

    Islamic law forbids homosexuality, and the practice of homosexuality is a crime in many Islamic countries.

    There is no official Hindu position on same-sex marriage. Some Hindus condemn the practice of homosexuality, but others cite ancient Hindu texts, such as the Kama Sutra, that describe homosexual behavior.

    Source: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

— The two brides were married in a traditional ceremony at United Church of Chapel Hill last weekend.

In spite of the fact that both had her own notions about wedding details like gowns, flowers, cakes, rings, vows and honeymoons and both, like most brides to be, had girly inclinations about their dream wedding, Jenny Shultz, 31, and Shannon Thomas, 46, made it to the altar unscathed, with their relationship intact and with all that wedding stuff worked out.

Many couples opt to write their vows these days, but Jenny and Shannon found that everything they came up with was somehow already covered in traditional words like "for richer, for poorer, for better for worse."

"I wrote, like a book, all the same things already said in the traditional vows," Shultz said. "Finally, we both just laughed because we realized that the traditional vows had been working for years. They were tried and true.

"It may sound funny to say we are both brides and we are claiming tradition and making it applicable to two women instead of using different stuff, but what we're doing is seeking the sanctity of marriage for us. Shannon and Jenny, two people coming together."

Shultz, an associate pastor at United Church, said that when she was interviewed in 2009 for the position at the church, she planned to say that she and her partner would be moving to Chapel Hill and that she would be an openly gay female pastor.

"What I found funny was that United Church was more concerned about my Baptist background than about my being gay," she said.

Shultz graduated from Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, a school supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, not the Southern Baptist Convention. Thomas is the music minister at a Lutheran church in Raleigh, but she is also licensed to preach.

Inviting the families to the wedding was like drawing a line in the sand, Shultz said. The only parents at the wedding were Shultz' father and stepmom.

"Our families have shown their support in any way they felt they could without compromising their own faith traditions," Shultz said.

"We are similar people," Shultz said. "The biggest difference is that she is older, but this does not relate to our relationship. We both love the outdoors, we both dress nice, not boyish. She loves movies and social media. We love reading at the beach, and we value experiences over things. A lot of money is spent on vacations, experiences, rather than the next big thing. I was an athlete and played college basketball at Kentucky. I see myself as all girl and think it is great not to feel stereotyped."

About marriage vote

What about the impending vote in North Carolina on changing the constitution to ban same-sex marriage?

"As an ordained lesbian pastor in an open and affirming church, I wonder if people really want to put this kind of discrimination into the constitution," she said. "We should not lose sight of the fact that this vote comes down to whether or not we want to codify discrimination."

When the newlyweds return from a honeymoon in Hawaii, they plan to have a civil ceremony in Washington, D.C. This is important to them, Shultz said, because they plan to have children as soon as possible.

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