In North Carolina, the United Church of Christ has launched a legal challenge to the state ban on gay marriage, because it limits their religious freedom to decide which couples it may bless in marriage.
Also in the South, United Church clergy have joined with Methodist and other religious leaders in a coalition to support gay marriage – because they are Christians, not in spite of it.
Oklahoma faith leaders form coalition supporting marriage equality
More than 50 Oklahoma faith leaders have formed a coalition in support of marriage rights for all couples, whether gay or straight.The Oklahoma Faith Leaders for Marriage group includes leaders of congregations of Mennonites, United Methodists, Unitarians, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ and at least one Baptist minister and two rabbis.
Standing in the sanctuary of Church of the Open Arms, Kenny Wright and Bo Bass are an Oklahoma City gay couple who say they will get married in Oklahoma if the state’s same-sex marriage ban is overturned. Photo by Jim Beckel, The OklahomanThe United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations have the most coalition representation, with at least eight United Methodist clergy and at least eight United Church of Christ ministers among the faith network’s members.“Expanding marriage equality will finally remove a long-standing obstacle to our pastoral care — and allow us to minister equally to all families in our community,” the coalition said in a statement released after its April launch.
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As marriage becomes increasingly accepted as routine in many countries and states, churches are left with the task of devising appropriate responses. In New York, a senior Methodist minister faced with a very personal dimension of the issue, resolved it by personally conducting his own son’s same – sex wedding, in spite of church regulations that forbid these.
While he would not be the first United Methodist minister to face discipline for performing a same-sex wedding, he could well be the one with the highest profile. He is a retired dean of Yale Divinity School, a veteran of the nation’s civil rights struggles and a scholar of the very type of ethical issues he is now confronting.“Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed,” Dr. Ogletree, a native of Birmingham, Ala., said in a courtly Southern drawl over a recent lunch at Yale, where he remains an emeritus professor of theological ethics. “But if you can’t, you break it.”For Dr. Ogletree, the issues are not just academic. He has fully accepted, he said, that two of his five children are gay. His daughter married her partner in Massachusetts, in a non-Methodist ceremony. So when his son asked him last year to officiate at the wedding, he said yes.
The official Methodist position is similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church: “homosexual activities” are seen as sinful, but homosexual people are seen as people of worth, who should be welcomed and included in all church activities. The big difference between the two, is in the nature of church governance. Without the strictly hierarchical power structures of the Catholics, many more Methodists are willing to speak up in opposition to the rules – and a sizeable number have publicly stated their willingness, as a matter of conscience, to ignore the relevant church regulations and conduct same – sex weddings if asked. It is believed that many have done so, without attracting the public attention that Dr Ogletree did.