Wedded Bliss for All or None

Posted on 11/15/2005. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I can only say thank you to this courageous minister and thank him from the bottom of my heart for supporting Equality for All!!! This is a man who has studied the bible and instead of teaching hate & bigotry actually teaches the message of Love found inside.

Wedded Bliss for All or None
To Protest Ban on Gay Unions, Arlington Pastor Refuses to Conduct Marriages

By Annie Gowen, Washington Post Staff Writer

Clarendon Presbyterian Church Pastor David Ensign has an alternative air
about him. He wears an earring and has been known to pick up his guitar to
play a few hymns during Sunday services.

But he surprised even some of Arlington’s die-hard progressives Nov. 3 at
the county’s annual human rights awards ceremony, where his church was
honored. He used the occasion to announce the church’s new wedding policy:

Traditional marriages are out. “Celebrations of commitment” are in.

To protest Virginia’s laws banning same-sex marriage, Ensign and the
church’s governing council decided recently that Clarendon Presbyterian
will no longer have any weddings, and Ensign will renounce his state
authority to marry couples.

Any heterosexual couple who has their union “blessed” in a “celebration
ceremony” at the tiny church will have to take the extra step of being
officially wed by a justice of the peace at the courthouse.

“What we’re saying is that in the commonwealth of Virginia, the laws that
govern marriage are unjust and unequal,” said Ensign, 45, who has served
as the church’s pastor since 2003. He said that the matter had been
bothering him for months and that he suggested the policy to the
congregation’s leaders because his conscience would not allow him to
continue performing legal marriages on the state’s behalf.

Clarendon Presbyterian’s stand comes as the state’s General Assembly is
set to take up for the second time a constitutional amendment banning
same-sex marriage, similar to amendments that have been passed in 19
states. It was cleared by the General Assembly last session and will have
to be approved again before a statewide referendum in 2006 or 2007.

Supporters of the amendment said that the ensign’s protest would have
little effect — and that he was only hurting his congregation.

“I think it’s a shame that this clergyman would seek to undermine
traditional marriage, which is the foundation of American society,” said
state Sen. Nick Rerras (R-Norfolk), one of the legislation’s sponsors.
“It’s a terrible message to send to our youth.”

The protest is part of a recent boomlet among ministers that began in
Massachusetts during the heated days of that state’s same-sex marriage
debate in 2003, said Harry Knox, the director of the religion and faith
program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the national gay advocacy

“It is certainly a powerful witness on his part to take the personal risks
that are involved in doing that, both in his denomination and within his
local congregation,” Knox said. “I applaud him for that.”

But it is probably a first for Arlington, according to Ida Duncan, who has
overseen the county’s marriage license office for 20 years. She said she
had never heard of a minister requesting to renounce the authority to
perform weddings.

The church, founded in 1924, has fewer than 100 members, yet has long been
a community leader on the ordination of women, rights of the disabled and
support of people with AIDS. Its members have mostly applauded Ensign’s
action, which was approved by the church’s “session,” or church council,
last month.

But it could cause a stink within the mainline Presbyterian community,
some conservatives said.

The congregation is a member of Presbyterian Church USA, the nation’s
largest Presbyterian group with about 2.3 million members in 11,000
churches across the country.

Wilson Gunn, general executive of the National Capital Presbytery, which
includes 110 churches in the region, said it was unlikely that the church
would face punishment from the national office for its action. Openly gay
ministers and those who have performed gay weddings have been the subject
of sanctions in church courts, officials said.

“It’s within their rights to decide what they’re going to do and not going
to do,” Gunn said. “We’re in the Jesus business, not the marriage

A leader of one of the largest conservative Presbyterian organizations,
the Presbyterian Lay Committee, expressed dismay over the church’s action.

“Frankly, it’s bizarre,” said the Rev. Parker Williamson, the group’s
chief executive. “I think it’s wrong. . . . The minister has a flawed
understanding of what marriage is. Marriage is a covenant between a man
and a woman ordained by God.”

Ashley Smith, 26, a litigation support specialist, married her husband,
Andrew, 29, a law student, at the church in May in a traditional ceremony
complete with nine bridesmaids carrying red roses. As a member of the
church’s outreach committee, she had enthusiastically supported the
proposed policy, although it was not final when she wed.

“We said if the policy was implemented before we actually get married, no
problem, we’ll just go down to the courthouse,” Smith said. “At this
point, we felt like the congregation was our home and we wanted to get
married there.”

Ensign, who is married and a father of three, said he is counseling other
couples who support his protest. However, he said he expects debate about
the new policy within the church as well as the national Presbyterian

“I don’t have patience for harassment or people who are ignorant, but
serious engagement, we welcome,” he said after church services Nov. 6.

“We’re not seeking trouble,” the pastor said. “This is a statement of
who we are.”


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