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CHUCK McILHENNY, an ordained Orthodox Presbyterian minister, hospital chaplain and coauthor of the book When the Wicked Seize a City will address the theme: "SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE."
Thirty-one years ago, the Rev. Charles McIlhenny accepted a call to serve as pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. Little did Chuck or his wife, Donna, know what the Lord had in store for them as they began to serve First Church and the community in which they lived. In 1978, Chuck fired the organist for First OPC when he learned that the organist was a practicing homosexual. The organist sued the McIlhennys, First OPC, and the Presbytery of Northern California for violating a city ordinance banning discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. As far as many scholars can determine, this was the first time in U.S. legal history that immorality had taken on the church for fulfilling its God-given responsibility within the parameters of biblical worship.
With the help of attorney John Whitehead and the financial support of hundreds of individuals and churches across the country to pay for the legal costs, the McIlhenny's won the case by arguing protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits governmental interference with the free exercise of religion. As a result of their stand, the McIlhenny's have endured great suffering. Particularly during the late 1970s and early 1980s, as a result of the negative media coverage surrounding the lawsuit against them, they were vandalized, had graffiti sprayed on their property, received death threats, and suffered a firebombing of their home and church from which they had to flee with their three young children in hand. And yet, throughout such persecution, they counted it a blessing to have the opportunity to give witness to Jesus Christ in such a hostile environment (source: New Horizons Magazine).
Today Rev. McIlhenny will describe the ordeal he and his family endured in his own words, and will provide a Christian response to the recent California Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage in that state, joining Massachusetts.