More than 70 United Methodist pastors from the West Ohio Annual Conference participated in or bore witness to the same-sex wedding ceremony on Saturday, May 7. One of the clergy participants acknowledged the ceremony is in violation of UM Church teaching, but said it would “excite, engage and motivate others working for change.”
The same sex union came just days before the General Conference once again takes up the contentious issues of marriage and sexuality.
Even though the church has debated this issue for nearly 45 years, and has repeatedly declined to endorse same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy, for the past several years LGBTQ advocates have decided to break covenant with the vast majority of the denomination, and engage in these acts of ecclesial disobedience.
Currently, United Methodism shares the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman with the vast majority of Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.
The ceremony in Ohio – and various provocations in Portland – are clearly part of an orchestrated effort on the part of LGBTQ advocacy groups seeking to change the UM Church’s position on sexuality and marriage. It comes just two weeks after a same-sex wedding service held in a UM Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, led by retired Bishop Melvin Talbert.
Not to be outdone, the boards of ordained ministry in the progressive Baltimore-Washington, New York, and Pacific-Northwest Annual Conferences recently announced they would no longer follow the denomination’s Book of Discipline when interviewing candidates for ordination. All three boards said they would no longer bar openly gay candidates from seeking clergy credentials in their annual conferences.
Clearly, progressives have decided that even if they fail again at this General Conference to change the church’s position, they will continue to regularly and provocatively defy the will of the church’s highest legislative body. Their actions will divide the church, particularly if our bishops fail to hold them accountable. Even worse, they will undermine the good work of colleagues and the health and vitality of thousands of local UM Churches.
The West Ohio Annual Conference has been racked by dissension over the same-sex marriage debate. Some pastors and local churches are threatening to leave the conference if other pastors are simply allowed to defy the church’s teachings on what many believe are core issues.
As the General Conference provocations escalate, more and more congregations will be forced to question their future with United Methodism.