Couples To Perform Own Same-sex Union In Makeshift Tabernacle And Return To UM Church For Celebration - UM Clergy To Oversee
3344 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
Policy Regarding Legal Weddings and Holy Unions
Note: The following was adopted by the Church Council of Broadway United Methodist Church on September 12, 2000. The action was taken with the understanding that the policy is only advisory to the pastor of the congregation.
Broadway United Methodist Church (BUMC) re-affirms its intent to minister to all people and exclude no group or individual. Celebrating a covenant between two people is one of our ministries. We see such covenants as not only a commitment of two people to each other, but also a declaration of new ministry and relationship to the Broadway congregation and the world.
Our policy going forward, until such a time as we deem it necessary to change it, will be as follows.
Since the United Methodist Book of Worship assumes that couples actually are the ones who "make" a covenant, the pastor at BUMC will no longer "conduct" legal weddings or holy union covenants. The couples will "conduct" their Holy Union or legal wedding covenant (i.e. create and celebrate their covenant through the exchange of vows) or may ask their primary attendants to assist them. All Holy Union and legal wedding covenanting done by couples will occur with the pastor present at a site separate from the church building and at a time chosen by the couple. This is in keeping with The United Methodist Book of Discipline (Paragraph 65(C), 1996 Discipline).
BUMC will construct a special archway that is moveable and designed as a symbol of the BUMC congregations support of the couple. This Broadway Archway may be used at the covenanting site.
Worship services in celebration of Gods grace for couples will be held in the BUMC sanctuary as scheduled by the pastor. These may include the celebration of Holy Communion and/or the re-affirmation of Baptism. The pastor will participate in the worship service to celebrate Gods grace for relationships as a liturgist and Communion celebrant only. The congregation may also provide additional lay liturgists who would participate in the worship service.
Because the couples covenant is also with a community of faith, legal weddings and Holy Unions will be celebrated primarily with couples who are members, constituents, and friends of BUMC.
The pastor of BUMC will not comment to the media in advance about planned legal weddings or Holy Unions. We strongly request that couples do the same.
|Pastoral Thoughts on Holy Unions 9/13/00
I begin with an assumption that it is unconscionable for a church to deny ministry to some people and make it available to others when that denial is based solely on the God-given identity of the excluded group. It is a practice that undercuts the foundation of our faith in the God who created all in the divine image. The ban against Holy Unions by the United Methodist denomination is nothing less than blasphemous.
A second assumption is that it is appropriate and even a privilege for the church to celebrate covenantal relationships for couples. Those celebrations are not only a commitment of two persons to each other; they are also a declaration of new ministry and relationship to the congregation and the world. Such covenantswhether in legal wedding or extra-legal Holy Union, whether for gay or straight couplesare declarations of relationship of individuals to one another, of a couple to a congregation, and of all of us to God and Gods world.
A third assumption is that the denial of such services to all persons is more unfair to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folks than it is to straight folks. Straight couples have a myriad of options for their celebration. Gay couples do not. As a short-term strategy, the decision for a moratorium on all services is one that I could support. As an ongoing posture it presents serious problems.
A fourth assumption is that the church sanctuary is symbolic as well as real space. It is not the only place where worship may take place, but it is a place where faithful worship must not be denied. It does matter when some have access and others do not.
A fifth assumption is that clergy do not "marry" or "covenant" or even "unite" couples. Our Book of Worship is clear. Couples "make" covenant. The church and its clergy may enable, participate and even conduct services, but they are not required. Clergy may be important for symbolic reasons because they are ordained to "representative ministry" in a special way. But in Protestantism they are not priests who are acting on behalf of God or on behalf of the couple to God.
A sixth assumption is that while all liturgy is "political" (it affects power and the impact of power in the human community), it may or may not be primarily political or strategic. For instance, those clergy who have come to be called "the Sacramento 67" were clear when they conducted the January 1999 service of Holy Union for Jean and Ellie, a lesbian couple in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, that they were being liturgicalbut their primary purpose was to make a "political" and public statement about the churchs policy of denying Holy Unions. I supported that action. It sent a message to the church as the denomination prepared for General Conference. But the service of Holy Union that I did for our members, Karl and Keith, in 1998 was primarily a pastoral act that was not intended to draw the attention that it did. It certainly was political just by its taking place, but it was not orchestrated to "raise the issue."
A final assumption is that concessions to bigotry or evil of any kind are dangerous. Policies that are simply designed to "skirt" the rules or find loopholes are only a short distance from complicity with the evil behind the rules. On the other hand, the presence of evil can also stimulate creative pro-active responses. At their core, such responses can carry and represent clear statements of new or reclaimed faithful understandings or practices too long ignored (e.g. the appropriate role of laity and clergy in services of covenant). Thus, in exploring ways to include services of Holy Union we can take a step forward rather than one of retreat.
On September 12, 2000, Broadway Church adopted a "Legal Wedding and Holy Union Policy". I support that policy not as a perfect position but as a faithful stance in a difficult circumstance. In adopting the policy the congregation seemed to have strong agreement about the assumptions above.
In practice, the policy only requires only that the exchange of vows which that creates the covenant and "celebrates" the Holy Union or Wedding be done outside of the service of worship toward which it points that celebrates the covenant. At that service Gods grace is celebrated. Such a celebration service could include the couples remembering and sharing the vows that they had made earlier to create their covenant.
My intent is to use this policy as my own while pastor at Broadway. The policy and these "Pastoral Thoughts" will be shared with all couples who want to pursue such a Wedding or Holy Union service with the church or me.
Pastor Gregory Dell
Broadway United Methodist Church
3344 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
Pastor: Gregory Dell
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