Statement from the Pastors
Over the last two months, the “Moving Forward” Task Force has developed a resolution to welcome all couples for marriage at FUMC. Last Sunday, May 19, the Administrative Board unanimously recommended the resolution to the congregation for a churchwide vote.
When FUMC took on a marriage discernment process in 2017, we were hopeful that a policy change would come through the work of the Commission on the Way Forward and the called session of General Conference in February 2019; we thought it was only a matter of time, and so we supported a policy that would treat all couples equally without violating The Book of Discipline. We remained hopeful for change in the denomination; while the One Church Plan did not match our full hopes for an inclusive church, it was a significant step in the right direction that would have allowed us to proceed with the ministry of weddings for all couples.
Unfortunately, the One Church Plan failed, and the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference in February. The Traditional Plan is meant to use draconian enforcement to discourage clergy from violating church rules against same-sex marriage; instead, it has served to clarify our call to stand up for what we believe is right, even—especially—in the face of that enforcement. For the clergy at FUMC, this moment in our denominational life has helped us identify our privilege: we serve a congregation that supports full inclusion, where we can proclaim loud and clear that God calls us to celebrate the marriages and ministries of LGBTQ people. It is incumbent on us to use our privilege to create change, even though it comes with risk. The risk to us pales in comparison to the harm that the church has inflicted upon generations of LGBTQ persons.
As we move forward, a few points of clarity: First, the passage of a resolution is the work of the congregation; not the Pastors. This resolution marks the commitment of FUMC to provide space and support for all weddings; it does not bind the Pastors to perform all weddings. Because of this, the resolution itself does not violate The Book of Discipline. If the pastors choose to allow or perform a same-sex wedding, we could face a complaint that could lead to charges. Those charges will be a result of our decision to allow/perform the wedding, not a result of FUMC’s resolution. We understand this risk and its potential consequences, but we believe it is time to face those head-on. Finally, our greatest hope is to minister faithfully to all we serve. Any wedding we perform should be about the couple, not about the clergy. We simply intend and hope to go about our work faithfully and serve God by serving those with whom we are in ministry.
We will spend the next few weeks preparing and discerning as we make this decision together. We invite you to be a part of this process during Town Hall Meetings provided in June and at the churchwide vote on July 14.
With great love,
Pastor Taylor and Pastor Cathy
All FUMC members are invited to participate in one of three Marriage Equality Town Hall meetings. The three meetings will cover the same materials and information.
Marriage Equality Town Hall Meetings
- June 2, 12:15 p.m., Sanctuary Main Floor
- June 16, 10:00 a.m., Sanctuary Main Floor
- June 23, 12:15 p.m., Sanctuary Main Floor
- July 14, 12:15 p.m., Sanctuary Main Floor
The below marriage resolution will be voted on in a churchwide vote on Sunday, July 14.
The marriage subcommittee of the Task Force quickly found consensus on the following points, which it and the full Task Force recommend to the Administrative Board and members of First United Methodist Church of Austin:
- 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.
To view the full Marriage Equality Resolution, click here.