Monday, December 22, 2014

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Southern Tier

Binghamton church stands behind pastor fighting for marriage equality

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Binghamton church stands behind pastor fighting for marriage equality
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A Binghamton pastor could lose his job, after admitting to United Methodist Church officials that he has been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies since New York State legalized them. Our Candace Hopkins spoke with church members, who are standing firmly behind Pastor Stephen Heiss, no matter what happens.

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It looks like any normal Sunday here at the Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton, but this day church members have gathered to continue to show their support for Pastor Stephen Heiss, and his goal of changing the church's position on same sex marriage.

"We've been fully supportive of him, the church has been a reconciling church for over five years now, when that vote came up, we were unified behind him and that issue, we feel that the Christian view of inclusion and love is the right message," said Tabernacle Member Brian Perry.

Being a reconciling church means this congregation is united in their belief that anyone is welcome, despite their sexual orientation. Everyone here now shares that view, but it wasn't always that way.

"We lost some members here when the issue came up….some of those people were friends, they chose to take a different path, but we felt strongly enough that we needed to embrace new friends," said Perry.

The congregation now faces losing Heiss, after he admitted to church officials that he has married several gay couples, including his daughter and her partner. Thursday Heiss met with church officials in Syracuse to discuss the charges he now faces, while nearly one hundred of his supporters prayed for him nearby. He sat in the audience Sunday, while guest pastor Sue Davis ran the service. She said there are pastors throughout the country who agree with Heiss.

"The people need to encourage and support their pastors in doing this, and do this themselves, organize, and speak out, and that will tip this scale, and that will bring justice,” said Davis.

The only way the church could change their stance on same sex marriage, would be by a vote during the general conference. The next one is set for 2016 but the cause faces an uphill battle. In the meantime, Pastor Heiss faces an uncertain future.

During Thursday's meeting Bishop Webb told Heiss the charges could be dropped if he agreed to apologize and stop performing same-sex weddings. Heiss said he will not stop. Now both sides have 90 days to come to a resolution, or Heiss could face a church trial. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP