The Episcopal bishop of Central Florida is set to meet this evening with a gay couple whose son was denied baptism in an Orlando church.
Rich and Eric McCaffrey were scheduled to have their infant son, Jack, baptized at Orlando's Cathedral Church of St. Luke on April 19. They had begun attending the church and met with its dean (the head clergy member), Anthony Clark, concerning the baptism, and found him "welcoming and open," the couple noted in a Facebook post this week.
But three days before the baptism was to take place, Clark called them in and told them there were issues surrounding the ceremony, according to the post. Some members of the congregation opposed it, he said, and the McCaffreys would be the first gay couple having a child baptized at the cathedral, which would bring much public attention. The baptism, therefore, would have to be postponed, Clark told the men. The bishop, Greg Brewer, was apparently involved in the decision as well. The couple wrote that they went public with their story on Facebook "to raise awareness to our community, and to offer perspective to a reticent institution."
Brewer, one of the more conservative bishops in a generally LGBT-friendly denomination, has now agreed to meet with the McCaffreys, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Brewer told the paper he does not object specifically to the baptism of a gay couple's child, but he wants to get to know the men and be assured they will bring up their son as a Christian.
"I want to get to know them as people and for them to get to know me," he said. "My focus has to do with them. Why is this important to them? That is what I want to know. ... It has everything to do with the intentions of the parents. Whether they are active in the church and Christians in the community is far more important than whether they are gay or straight."
The McCaffreys have refrained from commenting to the media, including the Sentinel and The Advocate, beyond their Facebook postings. Wednesday evening Rich McCaffrey posted that he intended to hold off on further online comments "out of respect for our meeting with Bishop Brewer," but he wished to clarify two points in the Sentinel article. Brewer had said there was disagreement between the couple and Clark about whether the April 19 date was firm or tentative, but McCaffrey said it was indeed firm, and that fact had been reiterated several times. He also wrote, "Our intention was / is to baptize our son and raise him in the Christian faith as we were."
Brewer has headed the Diocese of Central Florida, which covers 87 parishes in 15 counties, since 2012. That year he was one of 12 bishops signing a statement dissenting from the Episcopal Church's provisional approval of a rite for blessing same-sex unions.