AUSTIN, Texas — On April 14, the University United Methodist Church (UUMC) in a church-wide ballot voted "overwhelmingly" it said to open their campus to all weddings and to financially support clergy who have found themselves disciplined by the United Methodist Church (UMC) for participating in such ceremonies.
The vote is a direct response to a February decision at the 2019 UMC General Conference, which is a global meeting of the church, to reaffirm its current bans on LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex weddings while raising penalties for those who perform this type of ceremony.
“While our congregational vote is directly in response to the February vote at General Conference, our decision to open facilities for same-sex ceremonies and support our clergy who officiate that these marriages is the culmination of years of discussion among lay leaders and active members of UUMC in how we can actively resist policies from the global UMC that hurt our LGBTQ community,” said Elliott McFadden, chair of UUMC’s Church Council.
UUMC Senior Pastor John Elford has publicly said that he will practice marriage equality at the local church, which means he will be open to officiating same-sex weddings.
“This decision is a way of living out who we are as a reconciling church. Instead of simply opposing these discriminatory laws, we will now be in ministry as if they do not exist," said Pastor Elford.
This isn't the first time UUMC's congregation has voted in favor of supporting the LGBTQ community. In 2011, it voted to become a Reconciling Ministries Network church, joining a coalition of UMC congregations, groups and individuals seeking the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in both policy and practice of UMC.
“As a lifelong United Methodist who was baptized at University UMC 68 years ago, I am happy to see my church and my clergy taking the position to recognize the sanctity of marriage for all committed couples,” said UUMC Lay Leader Clyde Bennett.
“I am really glad that my church has stepped out and made the decision for equality," added Ann McGinley, a UUMC member and leader in the United Methodist Women. "It was a heartfelt, thoughtful decision based on love and respect. The truth is that we, as a community, are trying to follow the way of Jesus the Christ and we are learning and taking action with God’s grace.”
At the February General Conference, the reaffirmation of anti-LGBTQ policies in the UMG governing document, the Book of Discipline, was part of a group of proposals called the "Traditional Plan." It was promoted by conservative UMG delegates and their allies, the church said.
“The Traditional Plan cripples our ability to serve all of God 's people,” said Rev. Richard Bates, a long-time leader in LGBTQ equality in the United Methodist Church. “John and Charles Wesley told us to do no harm and yet there is much harm being done to LGBTQ people and their families. When we dictate who can be allowed at the table, we cease to be a loving, accepting people.”
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