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Church opposing same-sex marriage opens in progressive Durham community

A new church will soon open in downtown Durham - but many in the community are upset about it because of the pastor's stance on same-sex marriage.

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Bryan Mims
, WRAL reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — A new church will soon open in downtown Durham, but many in the community are upset because of the pastor's stance on same-sex marriage.

Sherei Lopez Jackson, the 32-year-old pastor of Pioneers Church, said she won't marry people in the LGBTQ community but that she's determined for her church to be a good and all-inclusive neighbor.

Rainbow flags flutter along Geer Street, representative of the progressive values in the Durham community.

"God is doing so many beautiful things here on Geer Street, and I just want to be a part of that beautiful fabric," Jackson said Tuesday.

She and her husband are graduates of Duke University Divinity School, and their church is part of the United Methodist Church.

During the week, the church space will serve as a tea and coffee shop – a place for hanging out. On weekends, it will host worship services.

"I want to be a good neighbor. That is my top priority," said Jackson.

But her neighbors are concerned that the church doesn't reflect the progressive values of Durham.

Some residents point to this statement about gay marriage she wrote on the church's website:

"Under the limits of my ordination in the United Methodist Church and my own convictions, I am not permitted to marry people within the LGBTQ+ community."

Jackson wrote that she believes Christian marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.

"I shared that out of clarity and of hope that it would be something that has more hospitality to it because I don't want to perpetuate hurt," she said.

Across the street at Motorco Music Hall, owner Jeremy Roth says that view of marriage is bigotry.

"We don't really like the idea of an organization setting up shop that has restrictive views on who can participate in life, in marriage," he said.

On Sunday afternoon, the music hall will host a community gathering to discuss "the potential harm Pioneers may cause."

"I guess the best course of action for them is to change their mind or change their views," said Roth. "If they can't do that, then maybe Durham is not the place for them."

A petition on Change.org has gathered more than 6,000 signatures agreeing with Roth.

But Jackson says her church does belong here.

"Everyone is welcome in our church community," she said. "People in the LGBTQIA+ community will be welcome as full members of Pioneers Church."


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