The issue of marriage equality has continually come up in the United Methodist Church. According to the Book of Discipline, the highest authority within the denomination, "homosexual acts" are considered to be "incompatible with Christian teaching" and thus marriages of LGBT individuals within the church are prohibited. Yet, clergy within the body are split over the issue. The Rev. Melvin Talbert, former bishop of San Francisco recently presided at the wedding of two men in Alabama and the Rev. Frank Shaffer faces church trial after presiding in 2007 at the wedding of his son in Massachusetts.
According to Talbert, the issue of marriage equality is the "elephant in the room" with many openly LGBT pastors and the private solemnization of LGBT marriages being commonplace. Yet recently the highest court of the church chose to sidestep the issue. In rulings that were published on the court's website on October 26th, the status quo regarding LGBT members of the church was kept while adding a provision which allowed bishops to publicly acknowledge their dissent regarding official church policy.
More than 30 members of the clergy in the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod will test the church's official policy when they preside at the wedding of an LGBT couple later in November. The clergy stand in support of Shaffer, who if convicted may be defrocked.
At GLAAD, we laud and support the efforts of those in the United Methodist Church who work for denominational recognition that matrimony is not only a rite open to committed men and women but also those in committed LGBT relationships. In recent years, other church bodies have proven that embracing and recognizing LGBT individuals as full members of the church neither corrupts nor weakens it, rather it only makes it stronger. It is our fervent hope and desire that recent movement towards equality in the church is embraced and made permanent.