Alabama Methodist church to screen Arthur gay wedding episode
'Weddings take places at churches all the time... First Church seems like a perfect venue,' says organizer
A U.S. Methodist church is screening an episode of the PBS children's show Arthur that was shunned by Alabama Public Television for featuring a same-sex wedding.
Birmingham First United Methodist Church will serve wedding cake and sparkling apple juice at its screening of "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone" on June 15, according to a report by Alabama media site AL.com.
Free and open to all ages, the late-morning event will be hosted by the church, Birmingham's Sidewalk Film Festival and Shout LGBTQ Film Festival, according to a Facebook event posted by organizers..
"Weddings take places at churches all the time. So First Church seems like a perfect venue for the cartoon in my opinion," said Rachel Morgan, the creative director for both film festivals, according to AL.com.
The church "frequently communicates to the community that they are an 'open place for all,' and I think this event reflects that statement."
Morgan received permission from WGBH, the Boston member TV station of American public broadcaster PBS and co-producer of Arthur, to screen the episode.
First United's senior pastor, the Rev. Stephanie Arnold, has urged Methodists to keep struggling for "full inclusion," saying "we want to extend God's love and grace for all people," despite a recent vote by leaders of the nation's largest protestant denomination to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages.
Arthur — centred on the anthropomorphic aardvark of the title — kicked off its 22nd season in May with an episode revolving around the wedding of school teacher Mr. Ratburn. The story sees the kids mistake the identity of their teacher's future spouse and culminates with Arthur and friends attending the wedding of Mr. Ratburn and his same-sex partner.
APT showed a rerun when the episode aired nationally May 13. According to APT director of programming Mike McKenzie, PBS alerted stations and affiliates several weeks prior that they may encounter viewer concerns about the content of the episode and gave them the option to preview it.
Mckenzie said he would not air the episode because he felt the depiction of a same-sex relationship would have raised serious objections among many APT viewers.
In 2005, APT also chose not to air an episode of an Arthur spin-off series that included families with same-sex parents.
With files from CBC News