Linda’s Reflections on Gay Marriage and Faith October, 2013
The United Methodist Church’s Discipline (the denomination’s official book of social principles and governing policies which is adopted—and can be revised—by the General Conference every four years) has since 1972 included judgmental and hurtful language about gay and lesbian persons.
The following information is from this website:
http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1324 What is the denomination’s position on homosexuality?
“Only the General Conference speaks for The United Methodist Church. When the lay and clergy delegates to General Conference approve a statement, it is published in the Book of Discipline and/or the Book of Resolutions. These words come from the people of The United Methodist Church. From the Social Principles • Human Sexuality • Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation • Marriage Other related statements include: Regarding church membership
4. Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status,4 or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.
5 In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.6 4. Amended 1992. 5. Amended 2000.
6. See Judicial Council Decisions 242, 246, 340, 351, 362, 377, 398, 594, 601, and Decisions 4 and 5, Interim Judicial Council.
214. Eligibility The United Methodist Church is a part of the holy catholic (universal) church, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. In the church, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and professed as Lord and Savior. All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection
4). In the case of persons whose disabilities prevent them from reciting the vows, their legal guardian[s], themselves members in full covenant relationship with God and the Church, the community of faith, may recite the appropriate vows on their behalf.
304.3 While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
2 1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984.
2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985.341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” [end of quote from The Discipline]
I will not go into the reasons why it appears that we will not be able to change the language in our Discipline in the near future except to say that because the ratio of members to our General Conference (in the guise of claiming that we are a global church) will continue to have an increasing number of delegates from countries beyond the United States where opposition to homosexuality in their contexts is very strong (these delegates from across the globe can vote on our Discipline while U.S. members cannot vote on their governing policies).
Not unlike the Civil Rights’ movement when many United Methodist clergy and laity stepped up as leaders in that struggle while the official position and the actions of the denomination were slower to respond, there are many congregations, church leaders (bishops, clergy and laity) who have responded by following the outstanding leadership of Bishop Melvin Talbert by proclaiming that we choose to be “biblically obedient” which, in this case, causes us to be “ecclesially disobedient.” To understand more about this call to bibilical obedience, see Bishop Talbert’s message at:
My own United Methodist congregation (Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, California) celebrated its 20th anniversary as a “reconciling congregation” (publicly stating that we accept all GLBTQ persons into all aspects of our congregation’s life) in May, 2013. We are clear that the Discipline is wrong when it denies called persons to be ordained because they are gay or lesbian and when it forbids pastors and congregations to perform or hold gay marriages. We love the United Methodist Church and we claim our Wesleyan heritage to embody the Gospel by affirming loudly and clearly that ALL MEANS ALL! We will follow Jesus by loving and by celebrating the love of any and all who choose to enter into the covenant of marriage. We will also continue to work to change our Discipline in regard to its homophobia and inhospitality to GLBTQ persons, but in the meantime, we will do what is right and just, because that is what Jesus calls us to do!
And so it is that on October 12, 2013, Michael and Cameron were married in a service that had so much depth and integrity that it moved me to tears! These young men are active members of our congregation. They are searching and growing in faith and in love. They know that they are loved and valued as members of the Body of Christ with us!
It is a wonderful and joyous thing to do what is right and good! All persons who choose to marry in California are able to do so. Our congregation is blessed as we baptize and celebrate marriages for all of our members. We seek to “do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God” (see Micah 6:8) as we work to feed the hungry, to offer legal aid to immigrants, to house families in our sanctuary house, to visit and work with prisoners and with women who have been released after years of incarceration, to engage in creative peace-making, to offer the use of our land for “Uncommon Good” (www.uncommongood.org) to build the first public “whole earth building”, and to work in many ways to care for the earth and to foster sustainable living. It grieves us that our denomination has yet to understand that homophobia and heterosexism is one more “ism” that must be destroyed (like racism, ageism, sexism and more). Because we love the United Methodist Church, we must make this choice to do the right thing. We pray that our witness will empower others to “open their hearts, their minds and their doors” to all!
Cameron and Michael share Wedding Vows
The mission statement of Claremont United Methodist Church is:
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are an inclusive community responding to God’s love and grace.
➢ We nurture one another on our spiritual journeys
➢ We work for peace and justice
➢ We serve others and God’s creation Together, we seek God’s creatie transformation of the world and of individual hearts.
[Adopted by the Church Council, September, 2009]