Today, GLAAD is assisting in the launch of We do! Methodists Living Marriage Equality. A group of 900 United Methodists in New York and Connecticut today announced their intention to make weddings available to all people, gay and straight. The group published a list of all its members: clergy members who will perform weddings for gay couples, lay members of the denomination who support them, and congregations who have adopted policies to formally make weddings available to all couples.
“We refuse to discriminate against any of God’s children and pledge to make marriage equality a lived reality within the New York Annual Conference, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression,” the group declared in statement called “A Covenant of Conscience” and signed by 164 clergy members, 732 lay people and six entire congregations. In all, 74 congregations within the New York Annual Conference (NYAC) are represented among the signers. NYAC is the regional church body representing United Methodist congregations from Long Island to the Catskills and in southern Connecticut.
Individual clergy are also speaking out. “My ordination vows require me to minister to all people in my congregation,” said Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, the minister at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn. “This is about pastoral care, about welcoming all people, but especially the marginalized and the oppressed, like Jesus did.”
The We do! project has been over a year in the making and has been followed by similar efforts in 11 other conferences within the UMC. All told, over 1,000 clergy in 19 states and the District of Columbia have signed a pledge vowing to extend their ministry to all couples seeking the church’s blessing for their relationships. The growing pastoral movement has caused a stir within the church and is expected to influence the upcoming General Conference.
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline, the rulebook that governs the country’s third largest Christian denomination, states, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” The church General Conference meets quadrennially to revise the Discipline, and the issue of LGBT exclusion has been debated at each General Conference in the last 40 years. The next General Conference will be April 24 through May 4, 2012, in Tampa, Florida.
GLAAD is proud to be supporting Methodists in New Directions (MIND), a grassroots organization working in the New York Annual Conference of the UMC dedicated to ending the church’s discrimination against LGBT people, and the NY Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), an organization bringing people together to work for peace and justice in the church and the world, in this project. GLAAD will continue to promote groups and people of faith who support LGBT people on the individual, denominational, and societal level.