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Same-sex couple barred from becoming full members of Blount Co. church

A same-sex couple had been going to Faith Promise Church in Maryville for nearly a year and half. After they got baptized, they were told they couldn't become full members of the church.

A same-sex couple says they've been denied membership a Blount County church because of their sexual orientation.

Courtney and Jessica Wright started going to Faith Promise Church in Maryville in 2016. They were very involved and developed a family there, enjoying Sunday mornings.

"Every Sunday it just got to where we were like okay, let's go up, do breakfast and there was never a question," Jessica Wright said.

Jessica and Courtney Wright are looking for a new church after Faith Promise Church in Maryville told them they couldn't become full members of the congregation.

Their enjoyment turned to questions.

"Over the past couple of weeks, like it threw us off completely," said Jessica Wright.

The couple was baptized, but the pastor told them because of the church's view on marriage, they couldn't become full members.

"We wish they would've said something ahead of time," Courtney Wright said. "People wouldn't come up to us and hate on us, we always have people come up and love on us. And that's what made us so comfortable there."

So comfortable, they considered church members like a family.

"Both of us were pretty lost before, and had a lot going on and that was where, and every time we were here, it just kind of hit home, it just felt like it was stuff we needed to hear," said Jessica Wright.

Faith Promise sent 10News a statement, saying:

"At Faith Promise we love and embrace all people because people are made in the image of God. We welcome anyone who desires to take their next step in search of the God of the Bible and invite them to be our guest at any of our campuses. Although we believe the Bible defines marriage, sharing this view is not a requirement to be a part of our faith community."

"They told us that we couldn't be members," said Courtney Wright.

"It was kinda like, you know, what's the point?" said Jessica Wright.

A Duke University study called Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations shows acceptance of gays and lesbians in churches grew from 37 to 48 percent from 2006 to 2012.

"On average, we've certainly seen an increase in acceptance in a variety of ways," said Dr. Tricia Bruce, who specializes in the sociology of religion at Maryville College. "It's been slower to move, particularly among some of the more conservative denominations."

She said acceptance depends on the church.

"I do think it's an upward trend, but it's one that many people have a very personal, complicated relationship with," Bruce said.

Jessica and Courtney have an 11-year-old and 5-year-old.

They say lots of people have reached out, inviting them to other churches, but they're taking a break for now.

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