On June 1, 2011, a civil unions law went into effect in Illinois that provided same-sex couples the same type of legal protections utilized by married couples. According to The New York Times, these rights included “emergency medical decision-making powers, inheritance rights, pension benefits, adoption and parental rights, and the ability to share a room in a nursing home.”
“In Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship between two people – either of the same or different sex,” reports the American Civil Liberties Union, “providing all of the legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits that the law of Illinois grants to married couples.”
More than 5,000 couples in Illinois are registered with the state for civil union benefits.
Although Illinois recognizes all the legal benefits of civil unions, Bishop Sally Dyck has issued a public statement of support for a same-sex marriage measure in Illinois. In a statement to members of the Northern Illinois Conference, she writes: “While the United Methodist Church holds that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, it also holds the teaching and a long tradition (albeit a struggle every inch of the way) of civil rights. Marriage equality is a civil rights issue; it provides for all what is afforded to some. … Because I believe in marriage, it’s my belief it will be a benefit for this law to pass.”
The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News, issued the following statement in response to Bishop Dyck’s public campaigning for same-sex marriage.
“Good News is disappointed that Bishop Sally Dyck has chosen to advocate for the legislative approval of same-sex marriage in the state of Illinois. Since 2004, our church has said that we ‘support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.’ Indeed, our definition of marriage as a covenant ‘between a man and a woman’ dates back to 1972. This position received a 77 percent vote at General Conference in 2004 and still represents the one issue among all the sexuality-related issues that garners the broadest support across the church.
“We respect Bishop Dyck and have worked well with her in the past in relating to the Unity Task Force of the Council of Bishops which she led. However, we believe that for Bishop Dyck to advocate a minority position that is at odds with the stated position of the church fosters disunity and deepens the sense of disconnect felt by many United Methodist members. In 2011, more than 14,000 United Methodists signed a letter to the Council of Bishops asking them to support the denomination’s position on same sex marriage. The Council issued a statement of support. Bishop Dyck’s advocacy flies in the face of the Council’s statement.
“We share Bishop Dyck’s commitment to ensure the protection of the civil rights of all persons. However, there are other ways to ensure the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons without redefining the bedrock institution of marriage. We see no reason why the church should allow a secular, anthropocentric, hyper-sexualized Western culture to tell us what marriage is, rather than looking to the Scriptures and, with real concern for the rights of all, maintaining what God has revealed.”
Good News has been an independent, evangelical voice within The United Methodist Church since 1967. As a renewal and reform movement, Good News urges the church to be faithful to the biblically-based principles of its historic Wesleyan heritage. In our desire to see The United Methodist Church centered on Jesus Christ, we want to see our church engaged in vital ministry, growing disciples of Jesus Christ, and transforming the world.