Chicago Church OKs Same-Sex Unions

First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, a historic downtown congregation, has affirmed a marriage-equality proposal that gives pastors a choice in whether to perform same-gender marriages. The congregation also pledged to support financially any pastor who does so if charges are filed under church law.

Same-gender marriages are now legal in the state of Illinois; however, United Methodist clergy are forbidden to officiate at such unions under the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book. Church law also prohibits churches from hosting such services.

Since 1972, The United Methodist Church has declared all people of sacred worth but also asserted the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“I view this careful decision on the part of the Temple to be a plaintive cry to the denomination that in the heart of the city of Chicago and in a state where same-gender marriage is legal, they believe they need to be in ministry to all people, including LGBTQ persons and families,” said United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck, who leads the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, in response to the church’s statement. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer.

Photo by Steve Beard

Photo by Steve Beard

The congregational vote in support of the decision was 173 in favor, 26 against and 4 abstentions for members. An additional advisory vote for non-members was 70 in favor and 14 no votes.

“This translates into about 85 percent of those who voted support marriage equality at Chicago Temple,” a statement from the church on the website. The church plans to create a nonprofit for those who wish to contribute to help defray legal and other expenses.

“We know this has been a struggle for some members of the congregation. However, the majority of those voting see this as a further affirmation of the Statement of Welcome and Inclusion adopted in 1996 that welcomes all people into the life of the congregation as brothers and sisters in every aspect of our Christian life together.”

Chicago Temple, founded by Methodist circuit riders in 1831, is the oldest church in Chicago. Today, the building also holds the offices of the Northern Illinois Conference as well as the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

June 1 marked the day all counties in Illinois had to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the state legislature approved the change and the governor signed it into law in 2013.

Dyck, who supported Illinois’ legalization of same-sex civil marriage, held a meeting with clergy in the conference recently and issued a statement from that meeting on the conference website.

“In a state where same-gender marriage is legal, clergy in the NIC need some guidance about what is permissible in terms of providing ministry to same-gender couples who request to be married by them as pastor, friend or family member,” she wrote.

Dyck listed some guidelines for pastors, which include “be honest about what you are willing to do or not do.” She points out United Methodist church buildings are not to be used for same-gender marriages but suggested “find another venue … hold the service outside the church!” She discusses other guidelines as well.

“I am aware that many clergy or laity will not be satisfied with these guidelines in terms of what they would like to be able to do in relation to ministry with LGBTQ persons and families, while there are others who will not elect to do any of the things on the list.

“However, I am committed to upholding the Discipline and as a bishop of the church, this is my interpretation of it for the Northern Illinois Conference. I will process complaints made against any clergy based on this list of ‘do’s and don’ts.”

Kathy Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Photo by Steve Beard.

 

Comments

  1. This church has broken our Biblical and Disciplinary covenant by doing this, and Bishop Dyck has broken our Biblical and Disciplinary covenant by supporting it.

    Chicago Temple could make their “plaintive cry to the denomination” in other ways besides breaking our covenant. For example, they could try calling people, including LGBTQ people, to repentance and confession of the Risen Christ as Lord, since that is the way–the only way–to salvation (Rom 10:9).

  2. Rev. Brian C. Briggs says

    A local church has no authority to change church law nor does a bishop. This action by First Church Chicago and Bishop Dyke is a gross display of their ignorance of United Methodist polity. Bishops are defying church law today because they have no accountability. They are accountable only to themselves. Along with term episcopacy the proposal of a body the bishops should be accountable to composed of no bishops but lay and clergy from each jurisdiction would help to remedy this lack of accountability. Some bishops coming from a gnostic/humanist background think they are above church law ignore the vow they have taken to defend it and even think they are above the Holy Word of God! “LORD HAVE MERCY-CHRIST HAVE MERCY-LORD HAVE MERCY.”

  3. Families, Organizations, and the Military Units have Mottos. These are promulgated to remind people of the actions, duties and character that they should present to the public or World. The Adjutants General Office of the Dept. of the Army has the motto of Defend and Serve. Our Bishops and Clergy could do a lot of good if they adopted this same Motto and followed its precepts in carrying out their duties and mission of the Church by following the BoD,etc.. The implied ‘Motto” of the Church is the same one as The Three Musketeers used ” All for One, and One for All”. Jesus said ” a house divided against itself can not stand.” Selah.

  4. I don’t understand if the church and the bishop are breaking church rules why doesn’t The UMC simply close the place and sell the building fire the pastor and the bishop.

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