Public Statement on Marriage, Standing in Solidarity with LGBTQ members.
Winston-Salem, NC – Members of the Leadership Council of Green Street United Methodist Church published a Public Statement on Marriage at a Press Conference on March 17, 2013 at 2 p.m. in the Sanctuary of Green Street UMC, 639 S. Green Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101.
On the matter of same-sex marriage, Green Street UMC sees injustice in the legal position of state government and the theological position of our denomination. North Carolina prohibits same-sex marriage and all the rights and privileges marriage brings. The Leadership Council has asked that their ministers join others who refuse to sign any State marriage licenses until this right is granted to same- sex couples.
Because the United Methodist Church prohibits its pastors from conducting same- sex weddings, excluding gay and lesbian couples from the holy sacrament of marriage, the Leadership Council has asked the pastor to refrain from conducting wedding ceremonies in our sanctuary for straight couples, until the denomination lifts its ban for same-sex couples.
Green Street UMC is presently the only Reconciling Congregation in the Western North Carolina Conference. With a growing number of LGBTQ members, Green Street seeks to be a public witness to its community, Conference and denomination.
The following documents are available regarding the statement on marriage:
A Public Statement on Weddings at
Green Street United Methodist Church
Adopted by the Leadership Council
March 10, 2013
As an Anti-Racist, Reconciling Congregation, Green Street United Methodist Church seeks to be in faithful ministry with all people in the brokenness of our world. This statement is being adopted as a sign of our commitment to love and justice for all people.
The Marriage Covenant between two people is a ministry of the church. Couples making a commitment to one another need a supportive community of faith to sustain and uphold them so as to grow in faith and love. Weddings are the occasion for covenant making, a time to seek God’s blessing on their commitment to one another. When a couple chooses to be married in the church, they should also be conscious that they are making a declaration of their relationship as a new ministry for the congregation and the world. At Green Street Church, we claim the committed same-sex relationships as no less sacred in their ministry to us and the community.
But sadly, at this time in the United Methodist Church, marriages, weddings and holy unions are limited to heterosexual couples. As our nation struggles to provide legal recognition to people in same-sex relationships and provide them the privileges allotted to opposite-sex married couples, our denomination struggles to overcome the sin of reserving these sacramental privileges for straight people only. We, the leaders of Green Street Church, see people in same-sex relationships as completely worthy of the Sacrament of Marriage. We reject any notion that they are second class citizens in the Kingdom of God.
Using the Social Principles Preamble and the Call to Inclusiveness from The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline 2012 as our foundation (see Appendix 1), the Leadership Council of Green Street Church witnesses to our United Methodist denomination, community and world in making the following requests of the pastors appointed to serve Green Street Church:
- We request that our pastors be active in the ministry of pre-marital counseling for all couples, regardless of orientation, guide them toward a life of commitment to one another, and lead the congregation in providing communal and spiritual support for the health and stability of all relationships.
- We ask that our pastors, at their discretion, offer to all couples regardless of orientation a Service of Relationship Blessing in the Sanctuary of Green Street Church. In consultation with the couple, such a service can contain a Processional, Scripture Lesson, Homily, an Exchange of Blessings written by the couple, and a Prayer of Blessing for their Relationship. (Note: service will avoid vows, rings, a public pronouncement of marriage, and language of covenant-making.)
- Until the United Methodist Church removes its restriction for LGBTQ people, we request that pastors under appointment by the Bishop refrain from conducting any wedding ceremonies, opposite or same-sex, within the sanctuary or building of Green Street UMC. (The United Methodist Book of Discipline, Para 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.) (Note: We define a Wedding Ceremony as a service that contains the exchange of Marriage Vows, Rings, a Public Pronounce of Marriage, and language of Covenant-making.)
- Until the state of North Carolina changes its restrictions on marriage, or has that restriction overturned, we request that pastors under appointment by the Bishop refrain from signing any marriage license issued by the state of North Carolina, or any other state where there is a similar restriction, until full privilege is offered to same sex couples.
These requests recognize that at the Pastor’s discretion, he/she may perform a wedding ceremony at location other than Green Street Church, as long as it is in line with United Methodist Discipline.
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline (2012)
from Social Principles, Preamble
We, the people called United Methodists, affirm our faith in God our Creator and Father, in Jesus Christ our Savior, and in the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Guard.
We acknowledge our complete dependence upon God in birth, in life, in death, and in life eternal. Secure in God’s love, we affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God’s will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ. We have not always been faithful stewards of all that has been committed to us by God the Creator. We have been reluctant followers of Jesus Christ in his mission to bring all persons into a community of love. Though called by the Holy Spirit to become new creatures in Christ, we have resisted the further call to become the people of God in our dealings with each other and the earth on which we live.
We affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel.
Grateful for God’s forgiving love, in which we live and by which we are judged, and affirming our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual, we renew our commitment to become faithful witnesses to the gospel, not alone to the ends of earth, but also to the depths of our common life and work.
From Section VI called to Inclusiveness, UMC Book of Discipline (2012):
¶140. We recognize that God made all creation and saw that it was good. As a diverse people of God who bring special gifts and evidences of God’s grace to the unity of the Church and to society, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons.
Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community and the world, therefore, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination. The services of worship of every local church of the United Methodist Church shall be open to all persons.
The mark of an inclusive society is one which all persons are open, welcoming, fully accepting and supportive of all other persons, enabling them to participate fully in the life of the church, the community, and world. A further mark of inclusiveness is the setting of church activities in facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.
A Pastoral Letter to GSUMC
Concerning Marriage in the Church
March 15, 2013
Friends and Family in Christ,
I write this letter in response to the requests of the Public Statement on Marriage (PSonM) approved by the Leadership Council of Green Street United Methodist Church on March 10, 2013. I will honor the requests of the PSonM: to be active in ministry with all people to make covenant with each other in committed relationships, including Services of Relationship Blessing; to refrain from holding marriage ceremonies in the GSUMC sanctuary until the UMC changes its stance; to refrain from signing marriage licenses of the State of NC until the law ceases to exclude same sex couples.
The PSonM is a communal act of conscience challenging both the legal and ecclesial exclusion of LGBTQ people. Ten years from its adoption it may be seen as a small gesture of good will, but in our present time and place it is a courageous act of a congregation trying to be faithful in the face of injustice. I am proud of Green Street Church. There is much to be learned by reflecting on the meaning of this statement. I will share the PSonM, as well as this letter, with couples who want to pursue a marriage ceremony or blessing service, with me or with the church. I believe that this can enrich the understanding of couples in the process of making their commitment to one another.
A deeper discussion is needed about the covenant of marriage for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and how it relates to the church and state. While wedding ceremonies often take place in a setting of worship, it should be noted that it is the couple who makes covenant with one another (United Methodist Book of Worship, page 115). In our tradition only the couple has the power to make the covenant, not the church, nor the denomination, nor the pastor, nor any congregation. The role for the church is to provide communal and spiritual support for the commitment and stability of all relationships. A marriage ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate with the faith community and ask for support. It also declares that the relationship is a new ministry of the church, enhancing the wholeness of each and assisting them in fulfilling their individual baptismal vows to follow in the way of Jesus.
It is unconscionable that our denomination denies ministry to some while making it available to others based on the God-given identity of LGBTQ people. The national opinion and political culture is rapidly changing on the issue of gay marriage. Our United Methodist denomination has failed to lead the way in this struggle for equality, and will once again have to catch up to the culture.
I was baptized into the United Methodist Church, nurtured as a preacher’s kid, received a call as a youth, and Ordained a Minister in this church at the age of 26. I love the United Methodist Church, but as I made clear to my ordination committee 20 years ago, I do not approve of our policies that exclude, and will be active in working to change them.
The issue of gay marriage blends the pastoral & prophetic dimensions of ministry at Green Street. I have been blessed by the witness of faithful LGBTQ and straight United Methodists who refuse to accept the status quo. LGBTQ people need and are entitled to the same spiritual guidance and support offered to straight couples. The denial of this need is a blatant act of injustice.
The requests of the PSonM will be viewed differently by people. I do not see it as an act of exclusion for straight couples, but an invitation for all people to be in solidarity with those who are excluded. Some may think it to be a sacrifice made by straight couples, but I think a better way to see it is the creation of a level playing field in one sacred space. Straight couples have multiple church location options for their celebration; gay couples do not. This is a short term inconvenience, one I look forward to seeing ended when our denomination finally recognizes the sacred worth of LGBTQ people.
Let us continue to grow in the grace and love of Christ, to follow in the way of Jesus, and too work and pray for greater inclusion in the United Methodist Church.
Frequently Asked Questions
Re: the Public Statement on Marriage
Green Street UMC
If the appointed Pastor honors the requests of the Public Statement on Marriage (PSonM), can he/she still perform a wedding ceremony outside the sanctuary?
Yes. The request of the PSonM does not ask to refrain from all Wedding Ceremonies, just not to hold them in the GSUMC sanctuary or building.
Does the North Carolina State Law prevent GSUMC from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies?
No, the restriction comes from our denomination. North Carolina State Law does not recognize same-sex marriages and does not issue marriage licenses for same sex couples, but the state cannot prevent marriage ceremonies.
Why does the PSonM request that the Pastor not sign NC State Marriage Licenses for straight couples?
The NC State Law prevents same-sex couples from having a marriage license. Clergy refusing to sign marriage licenses is not new. Many clergy have pledged with the organization Until All Can Wed: http://www.thegodarticle.com/uacw-pledge.html
Can the Leadership Council of GSUMC prevent a ceremony from taking place in the sanctuary?
No. According to United Methodist polity, it is the responsibility of the Senior Pastor, appointed by the Bishop, to determine the time and occasion for services of worship.
Is this a policy set by the whole congregation?
No, United Methodist Churches do not have a congregational polity. Decisions are made by the administrative body, which at GSUMC is called the Leadership Council. The PSonM was adopted by this body on March 10, 2013. Two congregational conversations were held to discuss the PSonM to provide reflections to the Leadership Council.
Does the Bible condemn same sex marriage?
No. The scattered verses of Scripture that refer to homosexual behavior and desire have sparked many debates in the faith community. It is clear from a reading of all such passages that long-term, committed, monogamous relationships between people of the same gender was not a concept at the time of the writing of Scripture.
Does the PSonM statement violate the polity of the United Methodist Church?
Does the United Methodist Discipline condemn homosexuality, or consider homosexuality a sin?
The Book of Discipline, our United Methodist book of polity, states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Since this language was adopted in 1984, there have been many attempts at each General Conference to remove it. Members of the UMC are deeply divided over this issue. The Discipline’s language also restricts gay and lesbian clergy, all clergy from presiding at same-sex weddings, and such weddings from taking place in a UMC sanctuary. http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1324
Isn’t marriage in the Church the right of every member?
No. Sometimes pastors will determine through pre-marital counseling that a couple is not ready to be married and will deny the request to perform a marriage ceremony. The Pastor also determines what services of worship are to be held in the sanctuary. Marriage ceremonies (rings, vows, declaration) are not available to same-sex couples in a UMC.
Does the request of the PSonM that no Marriage Ceremony be done in the sanctuary penalize straight couples?
Some people see this as unfair to straight couples, but the Leadership Council of GSUMC sees this as an invitation to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people. Straight couples have many more options to get married than same-sex couples.
Have other churches adopted a similar statement, or have a written policy?
Yes, but as far as we know we are the first UM congregation in North Carolina.
What is a Reconciling Congregation?
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church. A Reconciling Congregation is a United Methodist Church that adopts a public statement declaring itself to be open and affirming of LGBTQ people, registers their statement with an annual contribution to the RMN, and holds an annual Reconciling Worship Celebration. GSUMC became a reconciling congregation in October 2009. www.rmnetwork.org
What is the United Methodist Church’s position on homosexuality?
Only the General Conference speaks for The United Methodist Church. When the lay and clergy delegates to General Conference approve a statement, it is published in the Book of Discipline and/or the Book of Resolutions. These words come from the people of The United Methodist Church.
From the Social Principles
Regarding church membership
¶ 4. Article IV. Inclusiveness of the Church
The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status,4 or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.5 In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.6
4. Amended 1992.
5. Amended 2000.
6. See Judicial Council Decisions 242, 246, 340, 351, 362, 377, 398, 594, 601, and Decisions 4 and 5, Interim Judicial Council.
¶ 214. Eligibility
The United Methodist Church is a part of the holy catholic (universal) church, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed. In the church, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and professed as Lord and Savior. All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection (¶ 4). In the case of persons whose disabilities prevent them from reciting the vows, their legal guardian[s], themselves members in full covenant relationship with God and the Church, the community of faith, may recite the appropriate vows on their behalf.
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984.
2. See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985.
Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
Regarding the General Council on Finance and Administration
[The General Council on Finance and Administration] shall be responsible for ensuring that no board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The United Methodist Church “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends” (¶ 161.F). The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures.19 This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic.
19. See Judicial Council Decisions 491, 597.
(From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)
From the 2008 Book of Resolutions
¶ 162 J) Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation—Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.
Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2012. Copyright 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.