Church refused baptism for son of gay Christian couple

The McCaffrey's began attending the Cathedral Church of St Luke in Orlando shortly after adopting their son, Jack.Wikimedia

A gay Christian couple had their son's baptism cancelled just three days before the service was due to take place after members of the congregation raised objections.

Rich and Eric McCaffrey, who got married in New York last summer, were due to have their adopted son, Jack, baptised at their church, the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Luke in Orlando, Florida, on April 19.

According to a Facebook post by Rich McCaffrey on May 2, they had joined the church hoping that it would "be open to and respectful of our family".

"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," McCaffrey explained.

"It is important for us to provide Jack a spiritual foundation he can build on throughout his life. Baptism - the rite of Christian initiation - is a significant moment."

McCaffrey says he and his husband discussed their desire to have Jack baptised with the Dean of the church, Anthony Clark, who was "welcoming and open about the congregation". Clark suggested holding the ceremony at the church's evening service, "since those who worship at that time tend to be the most 'open'," McCaffrey recalls.

The family attended baptismal classes, and were set to celebrate on April 19 but were told just three days before that some members of the congregation opposed the baptism, and it would have to be postponed.

Clark was reportedly very apologetic, and explained the Cathedral would be subjected to significant exposure as it had never baptised the child of gay parents before.

"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 of the decision.

"Ironically, tenets of the baptism covenant call upon Christians to "serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself" and "Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." Is this how the church loves its neighbors and respects the dignity of human beings? Or are we only afforded that respect and dignity if you fit the church's view of what a family is? Would we be accepted if we opted out of the Cathedrals' congregation and instead hide [sic] in plain sight by being members of a lower profile Episcopal church? Both my head and heart tell me this is wrong."

McCaffrey's post has now been shared over 1,000 times, and the church leadership has reached out to discuss the situation. The local bishop, Greg Brewer, reportedly contacted the family, and is due to meet them today.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Brewer said: "I want to get to know them as people and for them to get to know me. My focus has to do with them. Why is this important to them? That is what I want to know."

He told the newspaper that he does not personally oppose baptising the child of gay parents, but individual clergy have the right to make their own decision on a case-by-case basis. For Brewer, though, "It has everything to do with the intentions of the parents. Whether they are active in the church and Christians in the community is far more important than whether they are gay or straight."

The Episcopal Church is among the more progressive denominations in the US regarding LGBT issues. The first openly lesbian priest was ordained in 1977, and the first openly gay bishop was consecrated in 2003.

In 2012, the Church approved liturgy for blessing same-sex unions that, according to Pew Research, "largely resembles a marriage ceremony without officially being one."