A gay couple in Florida is claiming that an Episcopal church abruptly refused to facilitate their adopted son’s baptism after initially agreeing to host the event — a decision that has sparked a fair amount of controversy.
Rich McCaffrey, one of the fathers, wrote a Facebook post last weekend that detailed how he and his husband, Eric, wanted a “spiritual foundation” for their son Jack.
So, they began bringing him to the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando, Florida, in hopes that he could be brought up in a Christian church; before long, they sought out a baptism for the baby.
“Baptism — the rite of Christian initiation — is a significant moment. Being a gay couple, we knew we wanted to be part of a community that would be open to and respectful of our family,” McCaffrey wrote. “After some research, Eric and I felt the Episcopal Church would offer similarities to what we knew of the church growing up, and it could serve as a place in which we could grow spiritually as a family.”
He claims that the dean of the church, Anthony Clark, met with the two fathers and agreed to baptize Jack, recommending that the family opt for a service at 6 p.m. — a gathering that he reportedly said was filled with more open-minded congregants.
“We chose Sunday, April 19 for the baptism. We attended Sunday services and recommended classes, becoming more familiar and pleased with our choice,” McCaffrey explained. “We invited friends and family, both local and from out of town, and we looked forward to celebrating with Jack on what was to be an important day.”
But just three days before it was set to unfold, McCaffrey said that Clark called and informed him that there was an internal debate at the church and that some congregants opposed the baptism. He said that the church, for the time being, wouldn’t be able to facilitate it.
“Three days before our son was to be baptized he was turned away,” McCaffrey wrote. “At that moment, he was unwelcomed by the church, and denied his rite to be recognized as a Christian. I was speechless, angry, and heartbroken.”
He continued, “Jack’s baptism turned out to be the very opposite of what it should have been. It became about Jack having two dads, rather than a community opening its arms to a joyful little soul, one of God’s children.”
McCaffrey said that both his “head and his heart” tell him that the church’s treatment of Jack and his family was wrong. He’s hoping that the congregation will reflect on its decision, while also hoping to use the experience as a teaching tool for young Jack.
After the Facebook post was published on May 2, the Huffington Post reported that Bishop Greg Brewer of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida reached out to McCaffrey to speak about the situation. Diocese spokesman Joe Thoma said that Brewer was surprised to hear about the cancellation and was looking for ways to remedy the situation.
McCaffrey and Brewer reportedly spoke via phone on Sunday and have plans to meet Thursday and subsequently release a joint statement on Friday. It is unclear what the contents of that statement will be.
The Episcopal Church as a whole has been largely seen as friendly to gays and lesbians, having passed a blessing for same-sex couples back in 2012. While that blessing resembles a gay wedding ceremony, it isn’t officially considered one, as the Pew Research Center has reported.
Some have critiqued the church’s reversal. What do you think?
(H/T: Huffington Post)
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.