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Reconciling Ministry

Marriage Equality Policy

(Enacted June 1, 2014)

We the members of the East Longmeadow United Methodist Church declare that no one will be denied the services of our church because of sexual orientation. This includes the use of our property for marriages and holy unions. This action is in accordance with the following statements in the United Methodist Book of Discipline:

  • "Inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination" (140).
  • "We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God" (161f)
  • "All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status or sexual orientation are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured" (161f)
  • "We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends" (161f)

Therefore, we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons because we understand that each individual is of sacred worth. We do this in a spirit of biblical obedience as we practice the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ.

Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The following FAQ is intended to answer questions about the Marriage Equality policy only. For questions about ELUMC's decision to become a Reconciling Congregation (June 2010), please see the Reconciling FAQ.

Why are we adopting this policy now?

As an established and committed reconciling congregation since June 2010, we are compelled to live into our Statement of Inclusion and consider how we should bear witness to the inclusive love of Christ. Our inclusion ministry continues to resonate and evoke the passion of our members. While we have already explicitly declared ourselves to be reconciling and inclusive, ambiguity around wedding ceremonies for same gender partners in our building arose because the Book of Discipline expressly forbids such ceremonies. In addition, many recent clergy trials were in the news as were stories about our denomination's discriminatory policies on non-heterosexual marriage and pastors. Thus, the Church Council determined that the best way to respond to these events was to adopt an explicit marriage policy that doesn't discriminate against LGBTQ persons and treats all couples the same regardless of sexual orientation.

Are we going against the Book of Discipline?

While the Book of Discipline contains the inclusive statements mentioned in the resolution above, it also contains the following statements: "We do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." (161.f) "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." (341.6) Despite these fundamental inconsistencies, the current policy of the United Methodist Church clearly forbids same-sex marriages or Holy Unions in United Methodist buildings or by any United Methodist clergy person. Thus, in the spirit of "Biblical Obedience" we are going against the specific policy in the Book of Discipline that forbids weddings for gay people while upholding other core tenets of the Book of Discipline, our understanding of the Gospel, the UMC's strong legacy of social justice, and ELUMC's own Statement of Inclusion.

Are we alone among United Methodist Churches in taking this stand?

No. In the summer following the 2012 General Conference, 15 regional conferences passed resolutions in support of same-sex marriage and against the UMC's current position on homosexuality and marriage. Others said they would express support for a "statement of gospel obedience" that declares the UMC to be in error for its position against homosexuality. In July 2012, the Western Jurisdictional Conference affirmed that God's grace and love is available to all persons and asserted that the UMC is in error on the subject of "homosexuality's incompatibility with Christian teaching." The Conferences of the Jurisdiction were invited "to operate as if the 'incompatible' statement in 161F does not exist." At the 2014 Annual Conference for the New England conference, a movement called "New Wineskins" will attempt to unify the various proposed resolutions on inclusion into a single resolution.

Are we requiring our current and/or future pastors to perform same-sex weddings?

Nothing in this declaration shall infringe upon 340.3.a of the Discipline: "The decision to perform the (marriage) ceremony shall be the right and responsibility of the pastor."

What is meant in this context by the phrases "Biblical Obedience" or "Gospel Obedience"?

Rev. Andy Oliver reminds us, "Jesus was asked by a scribe, 'Which is the greatest of all the commandments?' Jesus simply said, 'There is only one God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.' It is time for us as people of faith to live into those commandments. It is time to see ALL human beings as our neighbors. That is what I mean by Biblical Obedience."

What are the potential consequences of adopting a marriage equality policy?

Practically speaking, there are no specific punitive or administrative consequences associated with the adoption of a marriage equality policy or the conducting of wedding ceremonies for LGBTQ couples in our building. The real question is what are the consequences of not enacting this policy? Being a welcoming and inclusive community, based on our understanding of the Gospel and our core beliefs, demands that we demonstrate the integrity to stand up for those who cry out for love and justice and follow the example of Christ in placing people above discriminatory rules.