A Roman Catholic Church in Charlotte,
North Carolina has bowed out of hosting a Thanksgiving service rather
than work with an openly gay and married music director.
Mecklenburg Ministries' 38th
annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service is the city's largest and was
originally scheduled to be held at St. Matthew Catholic Church in
Ballanytne, Charlotte's largest house of worship.
But organizers decided to move the
service to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Dilworth after Catholic
officials at St. Matthew bristled at Steav Bates-Congdon's prominent
role in the interfaith musical program, the Charlotte
Bates-Congdon served as musical
director at St. Gabriel Catholic Church until 2012, when he was fired
for marrying his longtime partner Bill in New York.
After Bates-Congdon received calls from
people claiming to be church officials telling him he was not welcome
to participate or even attend the upcoming program, St. Matthew's
Monsignor John McSweeney, who said he was unaware of the calls, was
asked to formally invite Bates-Congdon to participate in the event.
McSweeney declined, saying that “in
no way would we give the impression that the Catholic Church approves
of same-sex marital covenants.”
“I don't think we should have to
violate [those teachings],” McSweeney told the paper. “And we
were the hosts, and they were the guests. Because you are welcome
does not mean we have to agree to everything you may hold to.”
McSweeney reportedly told the planning
committee that he would not invite Bates-Congdon to participate in
the event, saying that, “If this is a problem … then we are
recommending moving the interfaith Thanksgiving service to another
Bates-Congdon, now music director at
St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fort Mill, thanked Mecklenburg
Ministries for standing up for inclusion: “They're the heroes.
Mecklenburg Ministries refused to let me stay home for Thanksgiving.”