Funk on Faith

Nun barred from uptown parish by bishop will speak at Myers Park Baptist

Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of gay-friendly New Ways Ministry, in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of gay-friendly New Ways Ministry, in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. AP

The nun banned by the bishop will speak in Charlotte after all – at a Baptist church.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, who ministers to gay/lesbian/transgender communities around the country, will address a conference May 16 at Myers Park Baptist Church, 1900 Queens Road. Her subject: “Including LGBTQ and Their Families in Faith Communities.”

Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, had been scheduled to make her case at St. Peter Catholic parish in uptown.

But when that news reached Bishop Peter Jugis, of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, he ordered the church to not let her speak. As Jugis spokesman David Hains told the Catholic News Herald, the diocesan newspaper: “New Ways does not speak legitimately for the teaching of the Catholic Church and therefore cannot be allowed to hold gatherings on church property.”

The paper also reported that, in 1999, the Vatican found Gramick’s views on homosexuality to be “doctrinally unacceptable.”

Catholic teaching says that homosexual acts are sinful, and the two popes before Pope Francis – including John Paul II, who named Jugis bishop in 2003 – took a hard line. Pope Benedict XVI even wrote in 2005 that homosexuality should be treated as “an intrinsic moral evil.”

But the tone, if not the teaching, has changed under Pope Francis. In an interview with a Jesuit magazine nearly two years ago, the pope said the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He appeared to be criticizing some church leaders for putting dogma ahead of pastoral love.

And while not rejecting church teaching, the pope also answered “Who am I to judge?” when asked in 2013 about the sexual orientation of gay priests.

After Jugis barred Gramick from appearing at St. Peter, “members of our LGBT fellowship group jumped in,” said the Rev. Robin Coira, executive minister at liberal Myers Park Baptist. “We’re delighted to host the event.”

Gramick’s visit will be sponsored by the Charlotte chapter of PFLAG, short for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

The group’s local president is Diane Hill Troy, a Catholic who’s a parishioner at St. Peter. .

“The lack of acceptance and inclusion in many faith communities is one of the most difficult challenges facing LGBTQ people and their families,” PFLAG Charlotte said in announcing the change of venue for the speech. “It is comforting to know that the long list of LGBTQ accepting communities here in Charlotte grows every day.”

The May 16 event at Myers Park Baptist’s Heaton Hall is free and will begin at 8 a.m. with coffee and pastries. The conference is 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Tim Funk: 704-358-5703; tfunk@charlotteobserver.com

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