Susan Laurie, 21 years after answering God’s call to ministry, was unofficially ordained as a United Methodist pastor by a grass-roots group of LGBTQ people and supporters at 10:32 a.m. on May 10 inside the Oregon Convention Center as the denomination’s top legislative assembly gets underway.
This ceremony is not officially recognized. The United Methodist Church does not allow “self-avowed, practicing” homosexuals to be ordained.
The time of the ceremony was significant. It was a reference to Judicial Council Decision 1032, which ruled gay people could be refused membership in The United Methodist Church because of their sexual orientation.
“If this feels like a conspiracy, it is. We are tired of open doors that only lead to closets,” said the Rev. Amy DeLong, one of a dozen people who laid hands on Laurie during the ceremony. DeLong, a lesbian who has been with her partner for more than 20 years, faced a church trial in 2011. A resolution at that trial allowed her to remain a United Methodist clergywoman.
Laurie earned her Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1995 but as a lesbian, she was barred from entering the candidacy process.
Participants were asked, “Do we trust that Sue is worthy, by God’s grace, to be ordained?” In unison, they answered, “We do! Thanks be to God.”
After the laying on of hands and prayer, Laurie and her wife, Julie Bruno, served Holy Communion.
The looming debate over human sexuality has seen a renewed push from those who want change, with 111 clergy or clergy candidates coming out on May 9 as LGBTQ religious leaders.
Their letter, identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning, comes a week after 15 clergy and clergy candidates in the New York Conference took a similar step of coming out together.
And, on May 7, the Rev. David Meredith, a United Methodist pastor in the West Ohio Conference, married Jim Schlachter, his partner of 28 years.
These actions could put these clergy at risk of losing their credentials under church law, just as 864 delegates from around the globe are embarking on a 10-day legislative meeting that will determine church rules for the coming four years. Some of the May 9 letter signers are among the delegates.
More than 100 pieces of legislation concerning human sexuality will come before General Conference, which begins May 10. Many petitions want to retain the language in the 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline and strengthen penalties for those disobeying church law. Others seek to remove restrictions. Still other proposals would leave the questions of ordination and marriage up to lower levels of the church, such as annual conferences and individual clergy.
Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter in Nashville. Contact her at [email protected] or 615-742-5470.