Our discernment process and path to marriage equality.
MEMBERS ADOPT MARRIAGE EQUALITY RESOLUTION
On Sunday, July 14, 2019, the congregation of FUMC, in light of recent denominational actions that double-down on discrimination, declared by an affirmative vote of 98 percent, that its facilities are now available to all couples seeking the blessing of marriage, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that this congregation will support its pastors who officiate a wedding for a same-sex couple.
Marriage Resolution Highlights
- That First United Methodist Church of Austin affirm its commitment to treat all couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, seeking the blessing of marriage equally;
- That the Sanctuary and facilities of First United Methodist Church of Austin thus be available to all couples on an equal basis for weddings, regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple;
- That clergy assigned to serve First United Methodist Church of Austin retain their traditional authority to determine the fitness of any couple to enter into marriage and to discern whether to officiate any marriage; and
- That the members of First United Methodist Church of Austin affirm their intent to support any of our pastors who are suspended for responding to a call to officiate a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple, including continuing to provide their then-current salaries and related benefits for the period of any suspension and to pay costs attendant to any church trial for a charge of violating The Book of Discipline by performing that marriage ceremony.
Members Adopt Marriage Resolution
On Sunday, September 24, 2017 members of FUMC adopted a resolution to discontinue marriage ceremonies at its facilities in order to align its wedding policies with its strongly-held principle of full inclusion of all persons. This resolution creates a policy that treats weddings of opposite-sex and same-sex couples equally but does not violate the Book of Discipline. The measure was approved by 93% of the members present and voting. As a result of this policy change, FUMC clergy will not officiate at opposite-sex or same-sex weddings, but can offer a blessing, prayer, or homily. Weddings that are already scheduled at FUMC will take place as planned. No new marriage ceremonies will be planned. FUMC will continue to work with other UMC congregations in Texas and beyond to advocate for change in United Methodist Church policies that discriminate against LGBTQ persons.
Efforts Toward Inclusion
Since 1972, the United Methodist Church has adopted a series of denominational laws which are adverse to LGBTQ people, saying that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teachings,” prohibiting same-sex marriages by United Methodist clergy or in United Methodist facilities, and prohibiting gay and lesbian clergy. FUMC, on the other hand, has been affirming and extending Christian love to LGBTQ people since the 1980s. In 2000, the Adelphi Sunday School class became the first class in the country to affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network, and other classes followed suit. In 2013, FUMC itself became a Reconciling Congregation.
The Administrative Board has adopted resolutions supporting full inclusion and equality of LGBTQ people many times in the last dozen years. The Board has also submitted numerous petitions on LGBTQ issues to the last three quadrennial General Conferences of the United Methodist Church. However, none of the discriminatory provisions in the Book of Discipline has been repealed. Accordingly, the FUMC Administrative Board believes that the time has come for FUMC to consider action(s) to end discriminatory practices.
Believing that we should do more than simple advocacy, the FUMC Administrative Board appointed a committee to design a discernment process to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to address the conflict between these provisions of the Book of Discipline and our congregational commitment to full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of this church.
Beginning in May 2017, the commitee published a number of essays and articles relating to this discernment process, including essays describing the effect of the current policies on members, an explanation of the Book of Discipline provisions, a theological discussion, and consequences of various options. The entire congregation was invited to participate in one or more Discussion Meetings during May and June in various formats, including “town hall” meetings at church, Sunday School sessions, and off-site smaller gatherings. The Discussion Meetings provided a safe forum for open dialogue about the options for FUMC to move toward full inclusivity of all people regarding marriage. The Town Hall sessions took place on Sundays, May 7, June 4, and June 11 during the Sunday School hour for the presentation and after worship for the discussion with lunch. Two off-site gatherings were held on Tuesdays, May 30 and June 27 at off-site locations from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
In addition to the Discussion Meetings, comments, questions, and ideas, were provided by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and by hand written comment cards available in the Narthex outside the sanctuary and the Family Life Center lobby.
A summary of the Discernment Committee findings in pdf can be found here.
Church Conference Vote on Marriage Equality Resolution
The Administrative Board voted unanimously on August 27 to schedule a church-wide vote on a resolution for marriage equality at FUMC Austin. The resolution recognizes God’s blessing of both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, treats all couples equally, and does not violate the current Book of Discipline. The Board asked members to consider and adopt the resolution at a Church Conference on September 24, following the 11:00 a.m. service in the Sanctuary. District Superintendent Teresa Welborn presided. Professing members of FUMC were able to vote. Approval required a 75% affirmative vote of members present. The full text of the resolution in pdf is available at this link.
Q&A sessions were held in Murchison Chapel on September 10, 17, and 24 from 10:00-10:40 a.m. Prior to attending the session, all were asked to review the findings from the Discernment Committee and the proposed resolution as approved by the Administrative Board. Questions and comments may be referred to email@example.com.
Our Story Shared
Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to the news outlets that covered our story and researched this topic.
KXAN – “Trips down the aisle halted at Austin church until ‘inclusion of all people’”
CBS Austin – “Austin church halts weddings to create marriage equality”
Austin American Statesman – “Austin church won’t hold weddings until it can marry same-sex couples”
Fox 7 News – “No more weddings at Austin church until same-sex marriages allowed”
Huffington Post – “Texas Church Says It Won’t Officiate Weddings Until It Can Marry Same-Sex Couples”
NBC News – “The First United Methodist Church in Austin announced there will be no more weddings until the national leadership permits clergy to marry same-sex couples.”
LGBTQ Persons, The United Methodist Church, and FUMC
Read the UMC denominational laws, part of the UMC Book of Discipline, which condemn homosexuality and otherwise discriminate against LGBTQ persons along with FUMC’s position to change these laws.
Theological Roots for our Discernment
Pastor Taylor Fuerst summarizes the theology behind FUMC’s support for inclusion and equality, using references to Scripture, historical Christian thought, and the United Methodist Book of Discipline. Further, she reflects on the theological meaning of the commitments we make to God, the Church, and one another.
What Are Other Churches Doing About Equality of Marriage
As FUMC seeks to discern how to move forward in reconciling our value of inclusivity with the United Methodist Church’s prohibition on conducting same-sex weddings, one obvious question is what other congregations who believe in inclusivity are doing. This article discusses that question based on the information we have, which we know does not include all congregations that are taking action.
Proposal for the Equal Celebration of Marriages at FUMC Austin
Read the resolution approved by the Administrative Board on Sunday, August 27, 2017 that recognizes God’s blessing of both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages and does not violate the current Book of Discipline. The board is asking members to adopt the resolution at a Church Conference on September 24, 2017.
Summary of Discernment Committee Findings
Read the findings from four town hall meetings and two smaller neighborhood gatherings that represents 113 persons who completed a response form that gauged their support or nonsupport for several options. 153 persons total attended the Discussion Sessions.
FAQs Plus Responses from Discernment Meetings
Read many of the frequently asked questions arising during the discernment discussions and responses as well as additional resources.
Possible Consequences on Possible Actions Regarding Marriage Equality
Some have raised questions about the consequences for actions related to marriage equality. The discernment committee has provided a new article that highlights the actions that some churches have taken and the potential consequences for both clergy and laity.
First Word from FUMC Pastors: Marriage Equality Resolution
Pastors express their position in support of the Marriage Equality Resolution.
Perspective from a Couple Married at FUMC
Kaycee Crisp reflects on her marriage in the FUMC Sanctuary and the significance of this experience while mourning the church’s policies that prevent same-sex couples from having equal rights.
Perspective from a Same-Sex Couple Not Married at FUMC
Davis Covin reflects on his recent marriage that took place outside the FUMC Sanctuary and the personal impact of the UMC’s discrimination.
Perspective from a Mother
Darcy Hamre reflects on the sacrifice of offering equal treatment to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. As a mother, it would be heartbreaking to tell one child they are worthy and another they are not.