New England United Methodist Clergy Join Movement to Support Marriage Equality

June 16, 2011

*To date, 200 active and retired clergy in the New England Conference have signed the statement.
WENHAM, Massachusetts…(June 11, 2011)… During the 2011 New England Annual Conference session, held June 8-11 at Gordon College in Wenham, MA, ninety United Methodist clergy members of Conference signed a statement affirming their intention to “offer the grace of the church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage,” including same-sex couples. The action is in opposition to the denomination’s position on same-sex marriage.
The New England clergy signing the statement join those clergy from the Minnesota Annual Conference, who issued a similar statement on June 1. “This movement of love and justice is growing,” said the Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill of Portland, Maine, speaking this week at a meeting of clergy during the Annual Conference session. “And it must, or the church will continue to perpetuate discrimination, and continue to confirm its reputation of exclusion and irrelevance in a society that increasingly embraces the great gifts of diversity.”
At the beginning of the Annual Conference session, twenty-six clergy had signed the statement. The Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, together with the Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill, shared the statement during the clergy session at the start of the Conference. Nearly fifty colleagues stood and accompanied them at the microphone, expressing their support for the statement. By the end of the Conference session, those supporting the statement had grown to more than ninety. The statement was not addressed on the floor of Annual Conference, but was an auxiliary and voluntary effort by clergy supporting the statement.
“The overwhelming response to this statement witnesses to the pain clergy and laity experience when they are prohibited from marrying particular groups, such as gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons,” says the Rev. Leigh Dry, one of the coordinators of the movement. “To fully share and experience the love of Christ, it is imperative that we are free to bestow all the blessings of the Church, including marriage and ordination, to all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The statement signed by the New England clergy is identical to the one signed by seventy United Methodist clergy members from the Minnesota Conference earlier this month.  (Full text of statement included below).
“Clergy have quietly been performing holy unions and officiating at same-gender weddings for a number of years,” says the Rev. Kathryn Johnson, former Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, “but the declarations of so many pastors, publicly signaling their intention to place pastoral concern ahead of restrictive rules is something new. The winds of change are clearly blowing through the United Methodist Church, as well as other communities of faith.”
Since 1972, the issue of homosexuality has been the subject of lively debate at the United Methodist General Conference, a global gathering and the denomination’s top lawmaking body, held every four years. General Conference is the only body that can officially speak for The United Methodist Church. As recently as 2008, delegates to General Conference have voted to retain the Discipline’s language condemning the practice of homosexuality and forbidding same-sex marriage.
“Our United Methodist churches have many faithful gay and lesbian members, and I know this action is born out of the caring our clergy have for their members and communities,” said Peter D. Weaver, Bishop of the New England Conference. “United Methodists are divided on this issue – and many others as well – yet we remain committed to wrestling with these issues in love, and to working together to discern God’s will for the future.”
The New England Conference meets annually to consider policy proposals, ordain new pastors, celebrate retiring pastors, plan for mission and ministry, and worship. About 1,200 voting members—half clergy, half laity—attend the annual conference.
About The New England Conference
Nearly 100,000 people worship in 644 United Methodist and federated churches in the New England Conference, comprised of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and half of Connecticut.
The full text of the statement reads:
Equality for All in Christian Marriage
New England Annual Conference 2011
We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage. We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act. We thank the many United Methodists who have already called for full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church.
We repent that it has taken us so long to act. We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the Church to the world, and we are complicity. We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer.
Any United Methodist person in the New England Conference who conducts Christian marriages is welcome to sign. I have chosen to sign the Equality for All in Christian Marriage Statement and I belong to the New England Annual Conference.
Ms. Alexx Wood, Communications Director
New England Conference of The United Methodist Church
978-682-8055 ext. 150 (office) or
Rev. Leigh Dry, 508-308-4836,
*To date, 200 active and retired clergy in the New England Conference have signed the statement.


Related News

News of Amy DeLong Church trial - June 2011