July 4, 2015
Dear Members and Friends of First United Methodist Church,
On July 4, 1776, representatives of thirteen American colonies declared “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our nation’s history can be read as an on-going journey to a time when these words become a reality for all citizens (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation). On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. This was a huge step forward in that quest for equality and dignity for all people.
My response to hearing this news was joy and thanksgiving. It is a victory for equality, a value which undergirds our civic life and also our religious faith. United Methodists affirm that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God…” and “….God’s grace is available to all. “ In addition we are committed “to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (Paragraph 161 G United Methodist Book of Discipline)
In addition, I celebrate this Supreme Court ruling because it is a victory for covenant relationships. In our Book of Discipline “we affirm sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.” (Paragraph 161 F). I believe the best stewardship of the holy, fragile yet powerful gift of sexuality occurs within a covenant relationship of love, mutuality, fidelity, honesty, and non-coercion. It seemed cruel to me that people decried “the homosexual lifestyle” without offering gay and lesbian people an alternative sanctioned by society. Legalizing same sex marriage changes all that.
June 26 was a day not only for prayers of joy but also prayers of lament. Our church laws condemning homosexuality and prohibiting clergy from performing same-sex weddings remain unchanged. According to new survey data from the United Methodist Communications, 46% of U.S. United Methodists agree with the church’s ban on same-sex marriage, while 38% disagree. I am among the 38%. I look forward to the day when celebrating a same-sex marriage in our church will not violate church law. For me, loving God and loving our neighbors remain at the core of what it means to follow Jesus in the Wesleyan way. Justice is the form love takes when dealing with groups. In my mind, this is a matter both of love and of justice.
You may have a different opinion regarding same sex marriage. I invite you to share your views with me. And I also invite you to commit to the on-going struggle for equality in all areas of our national and religious life.
Happy Independence Day! — Pastor Marianne