Just days after their denomination reaffirmed its position against same-sex unions, United Methodists Julie Bruno, 47, and Sue Laurie, 52, held a marriage ceremony on General Worth Square, across the street from the convention center where the General Conference was meeting to pass official denominational stances.
More than 200 guests — family, friends and delegates — attended the outdoor ceremony on May 2. The couple are members of United Church of Rogers Park, a United Methodist church in Chicago.
"We have talked for many years about the pros and cons of a wedding. We decided to do it now while our church family is gathered," Bruno said.
Invitations were distributed on the evening of May 1 as delegates and visitors left the convention center, but Bruno said the ceremony was open to the entire church.
The couple exchanged vows, and the guests read a printed declaration of marriage in unison.
Only one clergy person, the Rev. Julie Todd of the New England Annual (regional) Conference, participated in the ceremony. Todd blessed and consecrated communion elements that the couple served to their guests.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits the denomination's clergy from conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions. On May 2, the delegates affirmed the church's definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Bruno and Laurie, who is the outreach coordinator for the Reconciling Ministries Network, said other United Methodist clergy wanted to participate in the ceremony. The couple wanted their ceremony, however, to be "less about upsetting people and more about being role models," showing that "ceremonies are going on regardless" of the church's position on homosexual marriage. The Reconciling Ministries Network advocates for full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the life of the church.
"This is about us today, not about clergy breaking rules," said Bruno.
Bruno, a lifelong United Methodist, and Laurie met during a Bible study at a United Methodist church 25 years ago. They bought rings for each other after 10 years, but the Fort Worth event was their only formal ceremony.
Joan Bruno, Julie's sister, said the ceremony felt like an affirmation of the couple's relationship and celebration of their church family because she has considered them married for many years.
"It's been 25 years already. She's been my sister-in-law forever," said Joan.
"They've been together longer than my straight parents, so this is a very powerful experience that, for me, speaks to what loving, committed relationships are," said David Braden, a friend attending General Conference as an alternate lay delegate from Northern Illinois.
Braden said he was still distraught over the April 30 legislative decision retaining the church's stance that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." However, he said he believes this ceremony was helping him to heal.
"I can go home from this conference feeling more fully human knowing there are people in this church who affirm loving relationships and are dedicated to God," Braden said.
Julie Bruno said that she and Laurie hoped the celebration would provide healing for others hurt by the assembly's decisions. She called their marriage an "Easter celebration after what felt like Good Friday."
"This is our Easter gift to our church family," Bruno said.
*Rouse is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.