The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


To marry or not to marry ...

New York congregation debates gay marriage

More than a year and a half after same-sex marriage became legal in New York state, Trinity Lutheran in Astoria, Queens, remains one of the last ELCA churches in the New York metropolitan area to decide whether or not to perform them — and has taken its time in making a decision.

For some members, the debate is a test of the church's motto: "The welcome place." For others it signals a potential erosion of the moral code with which they grew up.

When same-sex marriage became legal in New York in 2011, there wasn't much need for internal debate in most of the city's ELCA churches. "Many simply said, 'Of course,' " said Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod, who made it clear when he was elected to the position in 2008 that he would act as an advocate for gay rights in the church and civic sphere.

Paul Milholland, pastor, said that a quick decision would be inappropriate for the congregation, which has a broad spectrum of members — from liberal twentysomethings who think same-sex marriages should be treated the same as those between a man and a woman, to conservative, elderly members who have what he calls "more traditional views."

Mary Grosse was baptized at Trinity in 1947 and has been a member ever since. Now 75, she's one of the people other parishioners refer to when they talk about the older members who don't want things to change after so many years.

"I'm against it. I just am," she said, in regard to gay marriage at Trinity. "It's an emotional response. Could I point to a Bible verse to tell you why? No. But I just believe that marriage is between a man and a woman."

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