By Victor Ochieng
One Austin, Texas church has called off all weddings until the church leadership okays gay marriages. The church voted in an effort to compel the Methodist church to change its stand on same-s*x marriage, an issue that has drawn mixed reactions from the church’s body.
First United Methodist church in Austin made the landmark decision in a September 24 vote that saw 93% vote in favor of the temporary halt of weddings.
Senior Pastor Taylor Fuerst said he hopes the decisive vote “will have a unifying effect on the congregation,” adding that “It communicates even more to our city that if you are in the LGBTQ community that you are not tolerated here, but embraced.”
The senior pastor further said “This is a step we feel called to take as we continue to strive for change in the wider church.”
Methodist church’s current regulations is clear on its disapproval of same-s*x marriages in its churches. Moreover, the church’s Book of Discipline, which governs the church’s affairs, states that homos*xuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“This vote demonstrates that our members are willing to sacrifice a position of privilege in order to stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against,” said Davis Covin, who was on the Austin church’s discernment team. “I think this also serves as a great example to the children and youth in our church by showing that our members strive for social justice and equality for all God’s children.”
To this juncture, up to 11 United Methodist churches have made the decision to temporarily halt all weddings until the leadership alter’s its stand to allow same-s*x weddings.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court gave way for same-s*x marriages in all the 50 states in 2015, many churches have adjusted their regulations and guidelines to allow for such unions to be conducted in their premises and officiated by their leadership. However, as things stand currently, a UMC clergy risks being excommunicated for officiating a gay marriage ceremony.
UMC’s website also states clearly that the church supports “laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
The Austin church in its recommendation argued that UMC’s regulations on marriage and s*xuality “are incompatible with the inclusive teachings of Jesus Christ, as well as our United Methodist Constitution, and are fundamentally contrary to our mission and to our service to each member of the church.”
Fuerst revealed that the congregation was moved to act after three of their prominent members were forced to seek their marriages to be officiated in alternative locations because of the church’s stance on marriage.