An ad hoc committee of the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees has asked Wake Forest Baptist Church not to perform same-gender union ceremonies in the university’s facilities.
The committee, appointed last March by trustee chairman John G. Medlin Jr., met a number of times during the summer to consider a request made by the church to allow such ceremonies in Wake Forest’s Wait Chapel. In addition, committee chairman Michael G. Queen, a Wake Forest alumnus and pastor of Wilmington’s First Baptist Church, met with Wake Forest Baptist Church officials and several members during the deliberations.
After the ad hoc committee presented the report to Medlin, he asked Wake Forest University President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. to deliver the following report to Wake Forest Baptist Church officials on Sept. 8.
It is an unfortunate circumstance that Wake Forest University has been asked by the Wake Forest Baptist Church – an independent congregation with no formal ties to the University – to render a decision regarding the use of University facilities in which to perform a same-gender union ceremony.
Wake Forest University is an academic institution and not an ecclesiastical body empowered or authorized to render judgments on matters of faith and practice. It is noted, however, that of the Christian churches whose place it is to render liturgical decisions, and who are currently studying this controversial issue, almost no tradition, Protestant or Catholic, has chosen to sanction these services. Baptist churches, clearly and all but universally, oppose the practice at issue. Although Wake Forest University no longer has any governance relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the University honors and respects its Baptist heritage. Since the University is not prepared to render an ecclesiastical judgment, there is no compelling reason not to respect the prevailing collective wisdom of the Christian church regarding this question.
Although there remains division and uncertainty among the Wake Forest Baptist Church’s own membership about the position of the Church regarding the proposed ceremony, it is not the intention of the University to restrict the practice of the congregation whatever its ultimate decision may be or to interfere with the content of the church services. The University does not, however, want to become an involuntary participant or be perceived to have approved such practice, by having its facilities used for this purpose. Accordingly, we recommend that the Administration of the University ask the Wake Forest Baptist Church to refrain from using the University facilities for such purpose.
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