- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

"About two years ago, the Chair and Council of First United Church identified a gap between its new vision statement ("First United is an open and welcoming community, led by the Love of God) and its marriage policy."

What does a community do when it sees its words and deeds are not aligned?
The Council started by educating itself, reflecting and learning about the scripture and church history, the science and experience of gender and sexual expression, and the practice of marriage within the United Church. Council Chair Nancy Petanowitch credited local minister Kathy Underwood for assisting the congregation through the same process, in written material and well-attended open public meetings.
"People were offered private ways to express their opinion," which Petanowitch said helped maintain comfort and respect. The Council vote was taken by secret ballot to ensure that all members could vote freely. The decision to approve the new policy was unanimous with no abstentions.

We are an open and welcoming community, led by the Love of God.
First United Church Owen Sound affirms that all couples in a committed and loving relationship who seek a Christian marriage and who are legally eligible to be married ~ regardless of race, creed, socio-economic status, background, gender or sexual orientation ~ will be treated equally in respect to being married.

All marriages are subject to approval by the Minister and procedures set out by Church Council.


About ten years ago, the United Church of Canada decided that it would allow each individual congregation to make its own decision on these issues. First United has had enquiries from other congregations about the process that led them to their policy.
Petanowitch believes that this particular process is part of the "continuous and self-fulfilling work of building the church community" – reaching out and getting to know people, feeling comfortable with all the differences among the people who share our life.

From the First United Church report: Equal Marriage Policy Adopted
"Church Council believes with all of its collective heart that it has listened and responded to the voices of congregants and to the voice of God through this lengthy process. It acknowledges this is a long-overdue decision for some and an unwelcome decision for others. Council also believes that all congregants, regardless of their position on the new marriage policy, remain vitally important to this community of faith. All are welcome at First United Church regardless of their position. Council and Ministers continue to reach out to those who feel marginalized by this decision and we encourage everyone to act in ways that 'draw the circle wide' as we walk forward into our vision."






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