Boonville minister preaches acceptance after Same Sex Marriage Bill passes

BOONVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - At the corner of James and Church Streets in the very rural community of Boonville, New York, sits a place of worship. The First Presbyterian Church of Boonville was built at that corner in 1856.

The sounds of a church service echo on Sunday morning, as they do throughout communities across the country. But at this church, a minister is preaching acceptance.

Pastor Barrett Lee and his wife, a fellow Presbyterian minister in Westernville, both made the trip to Albany last week to take part in the demonstrations outside of the State Capitol building. The Lee's were letting New York's senators know they were for same sex marriage, even though they are heterosexual.

It's the same message Lee gave in his sermon Sunday morning to his congregation. He said, "This legislation that's passed is a way that the broader community, our broader society as New Yorker's, as Americans, is allowing us to stretch our minds. It's allowing us to reach out and embrace all people in sort of that 'one human family' like we talked about in the sermon."

Reverend Lee says he, like God, loves all people and he lives his life for momentousness events like the one that happened Friday night in Albany. Lee said, "I really think that the Holy Spirit is doing something new in our society. And to be a part of it, we get to be in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing and I can't imagine anything that is more exciting, more empowering, more delightful. This is why I get out of bed in the morning, and I'm stoked."

The Presbyterian Church of the United States voted in May for ordination equality, opening the doors for gays and lesbians who want to become deacons, elders and ministers. Reverend Lee says the vote was close, around 55 percent to 45 percent, so the church is still well divided on the issue, just as the state senate is stil divided on gay marriage, even though it passed.

Lee says next year the Presbyterian Church of the United States will take up the topic of whether to change church laws and perform same sex marriages. Right now the Church does not, and won't come July 24th, when same sex marriages can begin to take place here in New York State. Reverend Lee says he wants the church to change its laws regarding performing same sex weddings. He says, "there are those of us like myself, we've organized into groups such as More Light Presbyterians, also the Covenant Network, groups of us that are coming together to make that dream a reality too."

When Reverend Lee asked his entire congregation if anyone was willing to talk on this Same Sex Mariage Bill passage to us at WKTV, while we were there, everyone said no, accept the only openly gay member present at the time. Rick Bellinger says he knows the church is still divided on the issue, and refers to a conversation he had Sunday morning in church with a fellow church member.

Bellinge said, "I was talking to someone just a few minutes ago in fact, who said well, why would gay people want to get married? And I said, why did you get married? And she said, because I loved my husband. And I said that's the same thing with me or anyone else."

Bellinger says he believes the Same Sex Marriage Bill passage not only will allow gays and lesbians to marry, but it will make things easier for young people growing up. He, in his '50's, wishes the bill had been passed when he was young. He said, "young people don't really know where to turn. They don't know what to do about the way that they feel about themselves, and they know they feel out of synch with everyone else, and they don't know why, I mean this is what I went through."

Reverend Lee says the acceptance of those who are gay isn't going to come with just the changing of state law, but that change in state law is opening up discussions that he says will lead to just that, acceptance.

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