Massachusetts church says it’s open for same-sex weddings

The council of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Mass., has approved a “Marriage Equality Statement” saying that the church’s building is available for same-sex weddings and the congregation will support its pastor, the Rev. Scott Campbell, if he performs such services there.

The United Methodist Church officially holds that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Church law also forbids United Methodist pastors from officiating at same-sex unions and says such services “shall not be conducted in our churches.”

John Regier, the church council member who drafted the statement, noted that Harvard-Epworth has long supported same-sex marriage and that Campbell has been a leader in trying to change church law regarding homosexuality.

“We finally got to the point that we were not prepared to wait for the (church) law to change, and we wanted to express who we are as a congregation,” Regier said. “Ultimately it’s up to the pastor to decide what religious services take place in a church. We wanted this pastor and any future pastor to know that we were supportive of same-sex marriage.”

The council’s unanimous vote came at a meeting Monday, Oct. 21. All church members were invited to attend and join in discussion before the vote.

Massachusetts has allowed same-sex marriage since 2004.

Campbell said there have been no same-sex weddings at Harvard-Epworth, and none is scheduled. But he said he is willing to conduct such weddings there.

Campbell said a copy of the statement, with an explanatory letter, is on its way to Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar of the New England (annual) Regional Conference.

Devadhar said, “I am aware of the letter and its content. At this time, it appears that the letter describes a future intent, and no specific event has been reported. When matters like this come to my desk they are addressed on a case-by-case basis, and as a temporal and spiritual leader of the church, I am committed to dealing with such matters theologically and pastorally.”

Campbell said he’s unaware of any sanction the congregation could face if the church building is used for a same-sex wedding.

“The obvious sanction would be that the bishop would have the right to remove a pastor from an appointment if an action that were deemed contrary to the polity of the church were to take place,” he said.

The Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial caucus in the United Methodist Church that seeks to change church law regarding homosexuality, said 16 United Methodist churches are on its “Altar for All” list.

Fourteen have pledged a willingness to have same-sex ceremonies in their buildings, and two have decided not to hold any weddings as a protest of state laws prohibiting same-sex weddings.


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Racism
The Rev. Reginald E. Lee. Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Conference.

A birthday letter to Martin Luther King Jr.

On the occasion of the 92nd birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Reginald Lee, pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, penned a birthday letter to the civil rights icon.
Racism
M. Garlinda Burton. Photo courtesy of M. Garlinda Burton.

The content of our character

Leading into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Religion and Race top executive calls for the church to address its institutional racism.
General Church
The Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, a General Conference delegate from the California-Nevada Conference, speaks during the last day of the 2019 special General Conference in St. Louis. The Commission on the General Conference met online in December to discuss planning for the General Conference postponed by COVID-19. File photo by Paul Jeffrey, UM News.

Grappling with postponed General Conference

Organizers of The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body have decided not to reopen the petition process but have set a timeline for dealing with postponement.