Charlotte, N.C--Pastors from seven churches met privately Monday with Observer executives to protest the paper's decision to run paid announcements of same-sex unions.

While spokesmen on both sides characterized the meeting as cordial, Observer Publisher Peter Ridder said it will not change the newspaper's decision to run the paid announcements as soon as one comes in. "It was a good dialogue," Ridder said after the 70-minute meeting at Northside Baptist. "The group expressed its concern. I certainly respect their position. Hopefully, they understand the rationale behind our decision."

The Rev. Dan Burrell of Northside, who organized the meeting, said pastors agreed to continue monitoring The Observer's policy. He also hopes the gathering of pastors marks the start of a coalition committed to opposing efforts by other institutions that they believe to be pro-gay. We believe this is the first step in the agenda of the radical homosexuals," Burrell said, referring to paid announcements of same-sex unions in The Observer.

Ridder said on Sept. 19 the paper will accept the announcements as a matter of "simple justice and equal access." They are to run in the Sunday Carolina Living section, but not on the same pages with weddings, engagements, anniversaries and births.

Last Wednesday, Ridder met with four gay and lesbian leaders who object to that part of the policy. Monday, he met with pastors from Calvary, Central Church of God, Carmel Baptist, First Baptist, Northside Baptist, Christ Covenant in Matthews and First Assembly in Concord. He was joined by Observer Editor Jennie Buckner and General Manager John Luby.

After the meeting, Burrell said he will "continue to encourage our constituents to demonstrate their values." Northside, with 3,500 members and a K-12 school with 900 students, has canceled its advertising in The Observer and all but two of its subscriptions. The church in the past has taken up to 60 newspapers at a time for its students.

Ridder said the overall impact on The Observer's advertising and circulation has been "minimal," but declined to be specific.

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