The United Church of Christ (search), a denomination known for its progressive stand on social issues, will consider opposing resolutions on same-sex marriage at its biennial meeting in July, a church official said Friday.
"We take our democratic form of church governance seriously," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, spokesman for the Cleveland-based UCC. "This will ensure some heated conversation for our church when we meet in Atlanta."
This is the first time the same-sex marriage (search) issue will be debated at the church's General Synod meeting. The United Church of Christ has a membership of 1.3 million.
The General Synod considers resolutions, but it does not create policy for its nearly 6,000 congregations: UCC churches are autonomous. The UCC's meeting, involving about 3,000 people, is set for July 1-5 in Atlanta.
Guess said that if the delegates support a resolution approving same-sex marriage, it would be the first time a large Christian denomination has done so.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, declined comment on the issue.
The UCC's General Synod (search) previously has affirmed the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and holy unions for non-married couples.
Last year, the UCC caused a stir when it created a television advertising campaign that featured a gay couple, among others, being excluded from a church. CBS and NBC rejected the 30-second ads.
The Rev. Libby Tigner said the UCC's Southern California-Nevada Conference proposed the same-gender marriage resolution based on legal and religious grounds.
"We believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God and should be treated equal by our governmental bodies," said Tigner, an associate minister in Long Beach, Calif., at First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Another faction favors affirmation of a one-man, one-woman marriage resolution.
Eight geographically diverse UCC congregations have offered a resolution calling on the church to "embrace the scriptural definition of marriage." The Rev. Brett W. Becker, pastor of St. Paul UCC in Cibolo, Texas, who wrote the resolution, said he believes the UCC should stand for traditional marriage.
A third resolution proposed for the meeting calls for prayer and study on the issue.
The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with the union of the Congregational Christian Churches in America and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.