Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years

In another case which illustrates that Catholics in the pews are much more accepting of LGBT issues than some Catholic leaders are, The Charlotte Observer reports that a North Carolina parish music director was fired from his job because he married his long-time partner in New York State.

Bill and Steav Bates-Congdon

Steav Bates-Congdon, 61, led the music ministry at St. Gabriel parish, Charlotte, one of the largest Catholic parishes in the state.  He and his partner, Bill Bates-Congdon have been together for over 23 years.  They were married October 15, 2011, in New York, with several St. Gabriel’s parishioners present.  The pastor, Rev. Frank O’Rourke, had been informed of their plans, and no repercussions were mentioned, according to Steav Bates-Congdon:

“Bates-Congdon, who has produced music for Catholic churches for some 30 years, says he told O’Rourke about his wedding plans within days of his June proposal to Bill ‘because I didn’t want him blindsided.’ ”

“He recalls O’Rourke’s response:

Congratulations, I’m very happy for you. But I can’t give you my blessing.

“ ‘I wouldn’t ask you to,’ Bates-Congdon says he replied.

“More than six months passed before he was fired.

“Now, Bates-Congdon wonders why his boss and friend didn’t warn him of any problems, ‘why (he) didn’t pull me aside and say, “Dude, this is a really bad idea.”

“Had O’Rourke raised any concerns, Bates-Congdon says, ‘Bill and I would have pulled the plug and postponed it until some time when it wouldn’t have mattered, like in retirement.

“ ‘This was never about activism or forcing the church to make a stand – or even Bill and me making a stand. It was for the sheer joy of celebrating the fact that we could get married that we decided we would.’ ”

Though parishioners have varied opinions about the firing, many support Bates-Congdon:

“Cate Stadelman, a church member and choir singer for almost 25 years, says she has been back to St. Gabe’s once since Bates-Congdon’s firing – to help him pack. She says she doesn’t know if she’ll return.

“ ‘It’s the injustice of it,’ says Stadelman, who was on the search committee that recommended Bates-Congdon and, with her husband Tom, was a member of his wedding party.

“ ‘The church doesn’t recognize this marriage. The state of North Carolina doesn’t recognize this marriage. What changed from Oct. 14 to Oct. 15?’

“ ‘And then there’s the fact that this has absolutely no bearing on his ability to do a fabulous job.’ ”

John Gresham, a Charlotte attorney who specializes in workplace issues, noted a cruel irony in the decision:

“ ‘It is interesting that it was all right for him to “live in sin,” ‘ he says. ‘But when he got married it became a firing offense.’ “

One long-time parishioner, Bill Collins, who is angry with the decision, made a comment that expresses the desire of many in the Catholic church when it comes to LGBT issues:

“ ‘I need a community that’s compassionate beyond its rules,’ he says. ‘I need a leadership with compassion, not a leadership that simply talks about it, then acts otherwise.’ ”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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12 Responses to Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years

  1. How can this man be fired for something he did legally in another state, after giving notice and not receiving any written or even an oral warning that this was a job-terminating offense? The message that the hierarchy wants to send to Catholics, using the pliable pastor to deliver it: the Church accepts LGBT folks and their talents but only so long as we all pretend they are not LGBT.

  2. [...] 2) In a HuffingtonPost.com essay, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, observes that “Same-Sex Marriage IS Dangerous — to Church Workers .”  She is commenting on the recent firing of a Catholic parish’s music director, which Bondings 2.0 reported on here. [...]

  3. [...] 2) In a HuffingtonPost.com essay, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, observes that “Same-Sex Marriage IS Dangerous — to Church Workers .”  She is commenting on the recent firing of a Catholic parish’s music director, whichBondings 2.0 reported on here. [...]

  4. [...] What makes this case even more disturbing is that it comes so soon after a North Carolina parish music director was fired, also for marrying his long-time partner in New York.  Bondings 2.0 carried news and commentary on this incident, and it can be accessed here. [...]

  5. [...] What makes this case even more disturbing is that it comes so soon after a North Carolina parish music director was fired, also for marrying his long-time partner in New York.  Bondings 2.0 carried news and commentary on this incident, and it can be accessed here. [...]

  6. [...] such stories.  Since Bondings 2.0 began late last year, we’ve reported on two such incidents here and [...]

  7. [...] February 12, 2012:  Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years [...]

  8. […] February 12, 2012:  Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years […]

  9. […] Studdart “John Doe” Trish Cameron Michael Fischer Steav Bates Congdon Jodi O’Brien Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, OFM, Cap (see page 5 in link) Laine Tadlock And […]

  10. […] with Carla Hale, a Methodist teacher fired from a Catholic high school this year, and also with Steav Bates-Congdon, an Episcopal musician fired from a Catholic parish in 2011.  Since their behavior and beliefs […]

  11. […] in February 2012, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Steav Bates-Congdon, a music director at St. Gabriel’s, a Catholic parish in Charlotte, who was fired for legally […]

  12. […] Studdart “John Doe” Trish Cameron Michael Fischer Steav Bates Congdon Jodi O’Brien Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, OFM, Cap (see page 5 in link) Laine Tadlock –Francis […]

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