Catholic Diocese of Portland severs relationship with Maine Council of churches over LGBT advocacy

The St. Peter's Catholic Church on Federal Street in Portland, Maine is featured in this image. | Wikimedia Commons/Farragutful

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has announced that it will be leaving the Maine Council of Churches due to concerns about the council's stance on LGBT advocacy and other issues.

According to Religion News Service, the diocese decided to withdraw its membership after the council adopted a policy that would allow members to determine its public positions by a majority vote. Before the adoption of the policy, the council would only take a public stance on a specific issue after a unanimous vote from its eight denominational members.

"Our continuing participation could result in me advocating for two different, and even contradictory, positions," Portland Bishop Robert Deeley said in an open letter obtained by the Portland Press Herald.

"What I advocate for cannot be simply determined by a majority vote. It is expected that my advocacy is grounded in the teachings of the Church. Any other position would be contrary to my responsibility as the bishop of Portland," he added.

Rev. Jane Field, executive director of the council, pointed out that Protestant denominations in the council have become more affirming of LGBT members of their congregation, while Roman Catholic still upholds the teaching that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered."

"Remaining silent on issues, especially related to LGBTQ justice and equality, wasn't tenable for all of our other seven denominations," Fields said, as reported by Religion News Service.

"It was enough of a discomfort that it needed to be addressed openly. It wasn't healthy to be silent anymore," she added.

Field said that council members considered the option of issuing a minority stance in cases when not all members agree with the council's stance, but the diocese decided to leave instead.

She noted that the departure of the diocese, which has been a member of the council since the 1980s, is "fairly significant," noting that participation of Roman Catholic dioceses in a council of churches has been quite rare.

The diocese is expected to officially depart from the council on June 30. Deely vowed to continue the diocese's efforts to "serve the needs of the poor, the disadvantaged and the migrants among us" despite the decision to leave the council.

Other members in the council include the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists Association of Congregations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Diocese of Maine and The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, according to The Christian Post.

Field pointed out that other Catholic dioceses have also recently withdrawn membership from state councils in New Hampshire and North Carolina.