Lansdowne parish to host discussion about same-sex marriage

Pastor Peter Smith, right, talks with members of the congregation at St. Charles of Brazil, an independent Catholic church that meets in Lansdowne, after services on July 8. On July 12 the church will show "Our House," a film that examines marriage for same-sex couples.
Pastor Peter Smith, right, talks with members of the congregation at St. Charles of Brazil, an independent Catholic church that meets in Lansdowne, after services on July 8. On July 12 the church will show "Our House," a film that examines marriage for same-sex couples. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

A Lansdowne church will host a night of constructive discussion about an often-divisive topic on July 12 that will feature a documentary that focuses on the children of gay and lesbian parents.

After the screening at the worship space of St. Charles of Brazil, a 3-year-old independent Catholic church, at 141 Lavern Ave., there will be a discussion of same-sex marriage.


The event, scheduled to start at 7 p.m., is to address concerns of the community in advance of the Civil Marriage Protection Act referendum in November.

The referendum enables Maryland voters to uphold or repeal the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which was passed March 1 and will allow same-sex couples to receive a civil marriage license in 2013.


"We felt there was a lack of opportunity for people who didn't know how they felt about it or hadn't properly formed their conscience," said Ruth Ann Wickless, a member of the congregation based out of Our Saviour Lutheran Church.

"We want people who aren't sure how they feel to feel welcome," the 23-year Arbutus resident said. "Maybe they can hear some new information that will let them make a better decision for themselves in time for the referendum."

St. Charles of Brazil is part of Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA), a group that came to the United States 63 years ago and has no political affiliation or affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, according to its website.

The 50-minute documentary "Our House," profiles five families from around the United States.

Wickless said the film follows a family with lesbian parents and a heterosexual couple who have children before the father realizes he is gay.

"It basically just shows that (the children's) issues are not much different than standard adolescent issues, but there's an added dimension," Wickless said.

"(The families) also have to navigate these issues that society kind of thrusts on them," she said. "They're different and yet they're not so different."

Though many parishes in the CACINA have large numbers of gays and lesbians, St. Charles of Brazil is predominantly made up of heterosexual couples, Wickless said.

"It's by coincidence. It's not by design," she said. "I don't think there's anyone within our congregation right now who has a problem with gay folks or marriage equality."

Wickless said she had no idea how many people would come to the free event but hopes those who are uncertain about the issue attend.

"We respect the fact that it's hard and we're not trying to vilify anybody who isn't okay with homosexuality and gay marriage," Wickless said. "They're operating out of their knowledge base and they're doing the best they can. We do respect that."

The discussion will take place inside the evangelical Lutheran church run by Pastor Kristi Kunkel.

Wickless said that Kunkel has helped spread the word about the event.

According to a 2010 article from The Baltimore Sun, the Evangelical Lutheran Church allows noncelibate gay men and women to serve as clergy.

That same article stated the church does not have an approved rite for blessing gay marriages.

"We're supportive of people of faith having a conversation about this. It's an important conversation," Kunkel said. "It's important for us to get together and have the conversation."

Kunkel expected some members of her church to attend the discussion.

She said she hasn't heard one way or another from her congregation about they feel regarding the document and discussion.

"We continue to live together in the world as a denomination and as people who have different ideas about this," Kunkel said. "We're a Christian community. This is what we should be doing."

Carl Purvenas-Smith, 63, an auxiliary bishop with the CACINA, commended St. Charles of Brazil for offering the night of discussion.

St. Charles of Brazil, a former Roman Catholic bishop also known as Carlos Duarte Costa, fought for the rights of the poor and indigenous people in Brazil after the Great Depression.

"I thought it was extremely good because 'Our House' raises the issues," said Purvenas-Smith, noting this is the first parish of the three he works with to hold such an event. "But then again I'm not surprised. (That parish) looks for ways to be innovative and provide a safe atmosphere to talk things through."

Purvenas-Smith left the Roman Catholic church in 1969 because the teachings made him feel, as a gay man, to be "intrinsically disordered."

"I started looking for a way to be authentically spiritual and gay," Purvenas-Smith said.

Though he said he was "too angry with all religion" after he left the Roman Catholic Church, he found himself drawn to CACINA for its openness and nonjudgmental atmosphere about 27 years later.

He said he expects the same type of atmosphere Thursday night.

"I'm impressed with the way they're going about this," he said. "Certainly as a gay person, I feel very much affirmed and welcomed, worshiping with them and socializing with them and everything else."

For information about the event, email gbcacina@gmail.com.