National City Christian Church, a prominent mainline congregation in Washington, D.C., has decided to allow same-sex commitment ceremonies in its sanctuary, reports The Washington Post.
The unanimous decision on Saturday by its board of elders places the 159-year-old congregation, where U.S. presidents James A. Garfield and Lyndon B. Johnson once worshiped, among a small number of churches that permit such services.
"It was a really special moment," said the Reverend Alvin O. Jackson, senior pastor of the 600-member church, describing how 20 elders at Saturday's meeting agreed to allow him to perform such ceremonies. "There was no heated discussion." The move by National City, which belongs to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, was welcomed by gay rights activists.
"We think this is a tremendously bold move that recognizes the reality of gay families," said Wayne Besen, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a D.C.-based gay and lesbian advocacy group. "It's something that's rare, but it's increasing."
"I'm thankful to God that NCC has made that decision," said the Reverend Robert Holum, pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington. "I think it will be good for our community, which has many same-sex couples.... People need the support of the community to live in relationships of fidelity."
But other Christian groups disapproved. "It's just a sign of the decay and the demise of this church," said the Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the California-based Traditional Values Coalition and a Presbyterian minister.