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Rebel UMC Clergy Declare Independence, will Perform Mass Lesbian Wedding, Jan 16, 1999

Ceremony service blessing the holy union of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett

Attention: Religion and National News editors

On Saturday, January 16, 1999, a ceremony service blessing the holy union of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett, a lesbian couple, will be performed by The Rev. Donald Fado, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church of Sacramento. He will be joined in officiating by 80 additional United Methodist clergy. At least an additional 65 additional clergy will co-officiate in absentia. These ceremonies are prohibited by the United Methodist Church.

Rev. Fado says, "Our religion is not one of exclusion, but rather inclusion. All are welcome to the table where Christ is the host. We will conduct a service of holy union in the spirit in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his witness to the truth he found in God's love."

Press seating and photography is limited. If you wish to attend please contact Karen Humphrey at (916) 731-4890.

Statement by participating clergy:

We, as clergy in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, will officiate at the holy union service for Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton. After much careful prayer, study and reflection, we will take this action because:

We believe that we are acting in the way in which Jesus Christ would act. In order to be obedient to our calling as ministers of Jesus Christ, proclaiming good news of God's love to all people, we believe that we are called to bless loving committed relationships between Christian people, regardless of their sexual orientation. In taking this action, we sense that Jesus stands with us.

We are responding to the call of Jesus as reflected in Scripture. Jesus was very deliberate in placing the need for healing and renewal above the need for obedience to ecclesiastical authority. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, which was forbidden. Jesus offered healing and blessing to those who were the victims of marginalization and rejection in his day. Women, children, those who were physically and mentally ill, colonial oppressors and those who were foreigners were all rejected by religious authorities, but were affirmed by Jesus.

We believe that, as pastors, we have no choice but to be the vehicle for God's blessings upon those in our congregations. We are not responding to "an issue" but rather are responding in a pastoral way to those in our congregations who live in committed relationships of love and fidelity.

We are responding to the call of our United Methodist discipline: To affirm in practice the belief that "Homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons, are individuals of sacred worth _ all persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." (Paragraph 65G)

To protect equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. We reaffirm that "Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attend to contractual relationships_" (Paragraph 65H) To obey our conscience which captive to the word of God .. Paragraph 65G recognizes "the rights of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience."

We believe that God is calling us to faithfulness in this matter. We are deeply saddened by the lack of support for this pastoral ministry by many within the United Methodist Church. While we respect the conscience of those who cannot join us, we believe that our own conviction, both as Christians and as United Methodist clergy, allows us no other course of action.

We will officiate at this ceremony to provide pastoral care for Jeanne Barnett, our Annual Conference Lay Leader and Ellie Charlton, a member of the Conference Board of Trustees. They have been active members of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California; chair of staff parish relations committee, administrative board chair, Stephen Minister and initiators of a highly successful after-school program for children. We consider it a privilege to co-officiate at their celebration of love and fidelity as part of an obedient ministry to Jesus Christ.

Preceding events:

1972 United Methodist church states that gay sexual activity is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and forbids the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

April 1996 At the General Conference (United Methodism's ruling body which meets every four years) a committee votes 45 to 46 to recommend replacing the statement that gay sex is "Incompatible with Christian teaching," with an admission that the church is divided over whether gay sex is sinful. Fifteen bishops issue a statement expressing "pain over our personal convictions that are contradicted by the proscriptions against gay and lesbian persons within our church." Several pastors of conservative Methodist churches urge the Council of Bishops to reaffirm the church's stance that it is wrong to have sex outside of heterosexual marriage. The General Conference votes to amend the church's Social Principles (considered to be guidelines) by adding: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

March 1998 Jimmy Creech, minister in the First Methodist Church of Omaha, Nebraska is brought up on charges for performing holy unions for same-sex couples. A trial follows. He is found not guilty and is allowed to return to the pulpit. As a result some United Methodist churches begin withholding money to the church and threatening withdrawal rather than be part of a church that sanctions vows between homosexuals.

August 1998 The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church (the United Methodist governing body) rules that in Rev. Creech's case, the social principles are binding since the words "shall not" are used. Therefore, any United Methodist ministers who do not obey the principles on this issue can have charges brought against them. If found guilty, they will no longer be United Methodist ministers. United Methodist clergy, 92 in all, declare that they will celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender.

September 1998 Rev. Gregory Dell, Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, performs a holy union ceremony for two gay men. Dell's bishop, C. Joseph Sprague of the Northern Illinois Conference, files charges for violating the church's Book of Discipline.

October 1998 As many as 80 Northern California pastors plan to co-officiate the holy union service of the region's highest ranking lay leader and her partner of 15 years, Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton. Both women are long-time members of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento. Some United Methodist clergy declare they will file charges of ecclesiastical disobedience against the officiating pastors.

January 16, 1999 Holy Union of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento, with 80 clergy participating. An additional 65 clergy will officiate in absentia.

Schedule: Date: Saturday, January 16, 1999 Location: Sacramento Convention Center Theater 1301 L Street Sacramento, CA 9:00 a.m.: Circle of Love gathering in front of the SCC Theater 9:30 a.m.: Clergy assembled at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 15th & J Streets, Sacramento 1 p.m.: Holy Union Service begins, followed by a reception in the SCCT lobby. Admission by invitation only. Please contact Karen Humphrey at (916) 731-4890 for admission and press seating assignments. Credentials required.

A news conference and photo opportunity will be held in the theater, 10 minutes following the holy union service (approximately 2:30 p.m.)

Additional information:

The United Methodist Church is a 8.5 million-member denomination. It is the America's second-largest U.S. Protestant denomination after Southern Baptists. There are 34,000 denomination pastors. "The Ugliest Word in the English Language," Rev. Don Fado's October 4, 1998 sermon on exclusion and the theological wars over homosexuality can be found on the Internet at

United Methodist church clergy reference line: (800) 874-3211

Newspaper articles "Area Methodists target ban on same-sex unions," by Jan Ferris, Bee religion writer, Sacramento Bee, October 29, 1998 "Gay; Future of marriage," by Amy Paris, Sacramento News & Review newspaper, December 17, 1998 "Same-sex union ruling threatening church unity," by Michael J. McManus, Fresno Bee, March 21, 1998 "The time has arrived to recognize gay marriage," by Jim Wasserman, Fresno Bee, March 26, 1998 "Minister acquitted in lesbian marriage case," Associated Press, Fresno Bee, March 14, 1998 Church struggles with homosexual issue," by Roberta deBoer, Scripps Howard News Service, Fresno Bee, March 21, 1998 "Holy War over gay marriage," by Matt Smith, San Francisco Weekly, November 4-10, 1998 "Marriage of convictions," San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1998

-- Barb Chandler Freelance Writer, TSSF

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