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Bering Memorial UMC Issues Open Invitation For August Lesbian Wedding

From: "U.M. Cornet"
July 31, 1999: For Immediate Release

Contacts: The Reverend Marilyn Meeker-Williams and the Reverend Troy Plummer Bering Memorial United Methodist Church, 1440 Harold St., Houston, TX 77006 Phone: (713) 526-1017

Linda Enger, Eleanora Piombino to Exchange Vows Outside Bering Memorial United Methodist Church

Houston, TX: On Friday, August 27, at 7:30 PM, Linda E. Enger and Eleanora N. Piombino of Houston will be united by the Reverend Troy Plummer in the street in front of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church (UMC) in Houston.

The Reverend Marilyn Meeker-Williams and the Reverend Dr. Bruce Felker will serve Holy Communion in the church following the ceremony. The Rev. Plummer is an ordained Orthodox Catholic priest and an employee of Bering Memorial UMC.

The United Methodist Church has declared in its Social Principles that ceremonies that celebrate "homosexual unions" shall not be conducted by its clergy or held in its churches. In August 1998 the denominations Judicial Council ruled that this statement has the effect of church law.

Supportive United Methodist clergy and laity who wish to stand with Marilyn Meeker-Williams on the steps of the church on August 27 as witnesses to this holy event, are asked to contact her as soon as possible in order to make arrangements. (See contact information above.)

When the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, an Anglican priest, was forbidden to use the pulpits of Anglican churches, he took to the streets, fields, and churchyards in Great Britain and boldly preached the Gospel. Likewise, Enger and Piombino, forbidden to use the sanctuary of their church, will take to the streets to celebrate their longstanding committed relationship to each other.

Enger and Piombino will celebrate their 25-year-relationship with an exchange of vows and a celebration with their friends and family. They are active members of Bering Memorial UMC, where Enger is lay leader.

In February of this year, senior pastor Marilyn Meeker-Williams announced her decision not to conduct any services of marriage until she could conduct them all. Bering Memorial UMC will hold no weddings in the sanctuary as long as the UMC prohibits clergy from officiating at "homosexual unions." The ritual used in the service for Enger and Piombino will be made available to all couples who seek a wedding service at Bering Memorial.

The statement forbidding "homosexual unions" added to the Social Principles at the UM General Conference in 1996 set off a series of protests. Several clergy and congregations have witnessed against what they consider an unconscionable action. They say the declaration has gone against the denomination's affirmation that lesbian and gay people are persons of sacred worth and has also prevented pastors from extending all of the ministries of the church to all of its members.

The first event that drew national attention was in September 1997 when the Reverend Jimmy Creech officiated at a covenant service for two women at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, NE. A trial court did not convict him of disobedience to church law. Presently he is being investigated by church officials concerning his participation in another holy union that happened in April. Shortly after the Judicial Council ruling, the Reverend Greg Dell celebrated a service for two men at Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago. He has been suspended until he signs a statement that he will do no more ceremonies or church law changes. In August, a higher church court will hear his appeal of both the conviction and the sentence. In January 1999, over 100 clergy, mostly United Methodist and some "in absentia," participated in a service of Holy Union for Ellie Charleton and Jeanne Barnett at the Sacramento Convention Center in California. The church is now conducting an investigation of the "Sacramento 68."

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