Mayflower Community Congregational United Church of Christ voted May 24 to discontinue performing civil weddings as a demonstration against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.
The church at 106 E. Diamond Lk. Rd. joins nearby Lyndale United Church of Christ, 810 W. 31st St., which made a similar decision on April 9. But only a handful of churches nationwide have taken the same stance.
Mayflower Rev. Sarah Campbell said the church's vote sends a clear message to the state that affairs of church and state should be separated, especially when their definitions of marriage are so different. “It's a way to ensure the church embodies equality and institutional integrity,” she said.
Mayflower clergy will no longer sign marriage licenses, although they will still perform religious ceremonies. A vast majority of the 600-member congregation voted in favor of the gesture. Campbell said the congregation's symbolic statement began more than a year ago with some churchgoers who shared their concern about the church's bias toward heterosexual couples. In the year leading up to the church's decision, it took time to reflect on the meaning of the institution of marriage.
Mayflower's parent organization, the United Church of Christ General Synod 25, urged congregations under its umbrella to reassess their marriage policies. Considered an “open and affirming” congregation, the Synod encouraged churches such as Mayflower, not to discriminate based on gender. Additionally, Mayflower has a significant population of gays and lesbians.
It was a natural decision for the church. “I don't think that we're nave enough to believe this is going to resolve the problem, but I do think this is going to start major social change,” said Campbell. “We'll see more and more churches doing this because they want to have integrity in how they define marriage.”