This testimony is shared by Rev. John Wright, a Methodist from birth who graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College and received his Master Theology degree from Perkins in 1977. Rev. Wright has served as pastor at Center Point UMC (near Kerrville), Chapel Hill UMC in San Antonio, Oak Hill UMC in Austin, and Grace UMC in Corpus Christi. Rev. Wright was appointed co-pastor of First UMC, Austin in 2010 with his wife Barbara Ruth, who retired in 2015. They have two adult daughters and two grandchildren, all of whom they love very much.
I believe a strong case can be made for same-sex marriage on biblical, theological, and moral grounds. However, I cannot do so in the short space of time allotted. Suffice it to say that many of us are convinced that God is far more concerned about the manner in which we love our partner (whether we do so in a faithful, mutually exclusive, lifelong covenant) than about the gender of the person we love.
However, I want to make a more practical appeal:
It’s time for General Conference to officially acknowledge that as a denomination we are deeply divided about same-sex relationships and that there are many faithful, sincere United Methodists who come to strikingly different conclusions about this issue. General Conference must find a way to respect and honor the deeply-held convictions of both opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage.
We already “agree to disagree” on such matters as abortion, capital punishment, and divorce. Why can we not do the same with respect to homosexuality?
This matter is not going to fade with time, but will become more acute. For increasing numbers of United Methodists in the U.S., the inclusion of married same-sex couples goes to the heart of the gospel of grace, just as much as
the inclusion of so-called ‘unclean’ persons did for Jesus,
and the inclusion of the Gentiles did for St. Paul,
and the inclusion of eunuchs did for prophet Isaiah in Chapter 56.
It’s time for General Conference to adopt what I call a “Gamaliel strategy.” Remember in Acts, Chapter 5, when leaders of the Jesus movement with their “unorthodox” theology are handed over to the high priest, a wise rabbi named Gamaliel advises the council to leave them alone, because “if what they’re doing is of human origin, it will fail of its own accord, but if it is of God, he tells them, “you will not be able to overthrow it.”
I urge you to follow Gamaliel’s advice. General Conference, without giving a blanket endorsement of same-sex marriage, can move away from judgmental condemnation and vote to suspend, at least for the next four years, the current prohibitions against same-sex marriages, in order to give our denomination some breathing space for further discernment. No minister or congregation would be forced to perform same-sex marriages, but ministers and congregations like mine could follow where they believe the Holy Spirit is leading them during this period of discernment. If what we are doing is of human origin, it will fail of its own accord. But if it is of God . . . well, let’s trust providence to make clear God’s will on this issue.
The longer we delay in finding an accommodation, the more desperate congregations like mine will feel. Already, life-long and faithful pillars of my church are advocating that this congregation adopt a policy allowing same-sex weddings to be performed in our sanctuary by non-United Methodist pastors. Or, they are proposing that we follow the example of Trinity Church (formerly named Trinity United Methodist Church) here in Austin, Texas and affiliate dually with the United Church of Christ. But can you imagine there being no First United Methodist Church in Austin, only a First United Church?
Follow Gamaliel’s advice. If what we are doing is of human origin, it will fail of its own accord, but if it is of God, well then … let’s see!
In April 2016 the Rio Texas Annual Conference hosted online listening sessions about General Conference proposals open to all who registered. For the online listening session held on April 12th, conference constituents gave presentations regarding proposals of General Conference 2016 on the topic of “Human Sexuality and LGBTQI,” and time was allotted for questions from online participants. Five participants (previously registered through an application process open to all conference members) were granted a few minutes to share their stories. Four of the people who spoke are Reconciling United Methodists who believe in full inclusion for LGBTQ people in our church. They have agreed to have their transcripts shared here. This is the fourth in a four-part series.