For years, Steav Bates-Congdon was the music director at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But he was fired by the church last year after he went to New York and married his longtime same-sex partner. The firing made local headlines, but Bates-Congdon handled it gracefully and accepted a new position as music director at nearby St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Fast forward to this year. Every year in Charlotte, Mecklenburg Ministries holds an annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. The service is hosted at a different place of worship in the Charlotte region every year.
This year, St. Matthew Catholic Church, a sister parish of St. Gabriel, was slated to host the event. Bates-Congdon was scheduled to participate in the service and direct a song. But now, just a month before the service, the event has to be relocated.
St. Matthew’s is refusing to allow Bates-Congdon to participate in the service. They are refusing to even allow Bates-Congdon to attend the service as anything other than a worshipper.
Monsignor John McSweeney spoke to the Charlotte Observer recently about his church’s refusal to allow Bates-Congdon to participate in the service. He noted that Catholic doctrine forbids homosexual behavior.
“I don’t think we should have to violate (those teachings). And we were the hosts, and they were the guests,” he told the Observer. “Because you are welcome does not mean we have to agree to everything you may hold to.
“If this is a problem, if this is a concern,” McSweeney said, “then we are recommending moving the interfaith thanksgiving service to another church.”
Mecklenburg Ministries has announced that the service is being moved to Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Speaking on behalf of Mecklenburg Ministries, Rev. Glencie Rhedrick said he disagrees with but understands St. Michael’s decision.
“…our relationship with St. Matthew is still very much intact,” he said. “They’re still supportive of Mecklenburg Ministries. They understand the decision we made, and we understand the decision they made.”