The Sunday morning after [the pastor explained she opposed gay marriage], a pair of women were seen pouring a thick perimeter of salt around the church storefront....
Pouring a ring of salt around a church entrance? That's an ancient ritual to block the passage of an evil spirit. The ladies of the church who poured the salt ring evidently felt they were threatened by the evil spirits around them. This actually happened recently in Durham, at the intersection of Geer Street and Rigsbee Avenue, the former location of a motor and auto parts business and the new, sparkling Art Deco location of Pioneers Durham, a church affiliated with the United Methodists (UMC) and financially supported by something called the Affiliation of Related Churches (ARC). The official doctrinal stance of both the UMC and of the ARC happens to be anti-gay marriage. Period. So Pioneers Durham -- and its related businesses, of which there are many (including a coffee house catering to GenZ) -- has become controversial in a part of Durham which is, according to LGBTQ+ activists, one of the most queer in the state.
About that folklore barrier for demons, according to Sarah Edwards, "The salt lingered for several days afterward."
The church -- and its woman pastor, Sherei Lopez Jackson -- are merely following current UMC and ARC doctrine regarding marriage. Both orgs say church-sanctioned marriage will be only between one man and one woman, though various individual UMC churches, including ones in Durham, are defying the doctrine. "In January 2020, Duke Memorial lead pastor Heather Rodrigues took historic action when she stood alongside 11 other UMC pastors and married Durham residents Caleb Parker and Thomas Phillips, who became the first gay couple to be married in the history of the 112-year-old Duke Memorial." There's actually an irrevocable split in the UMC underway, likely to consummate at the 2022 General Conference when the larger church is expected to split into two factions: a conservative wing (with which Pioneers Durham looks likely to affiliate) and another that affirms LGBTQ+ congregations.
I read Sarah Edwards' article carefully. Pastor Lopez Jackson is no Mark Robinson, nor anything even in that neighborhood of intolerant Christianity. She's actually a crusader of sorts for women's rights. She says she wanted ordination in the UMC because they accept women preachers, and her ideas for using the Pioneers Durham property off-hours to stimulate and nurture local small business enterprises, especially among black women, seems totally cool. And her get-to-know video compells sympathy:
But in Edwards' article she's weirdly evasive about the "homophobic" label:
“I hope to teach and create conversation around sexual formation with humility, listening, and compassion towards the ways that this interpretation has caused deep harm,” Lopez Jackson wrote. “Our leaders commit to listening, apologizing when necessary, and continually growing in love, kindness and healthy relationships. We commit to surrounding ourselves with voices unlike our own, so that we might be better spiritual friends to Durham.”
That is a form of gobbledygook which I learned to despise when I was an academic. What, pray tell, does "sexual formation" mean? That obfuscating locution, along with those great big empty generalizations like "humility, listening, and compassion," which she drops like chocolate-covered cheeries of distraction -- really say nothing at all. Who talks this way?
Plus there is that salt ring thing.