A Message from Bishop Gary E. Mueller in response to the Supreme Court ruling.
June 26, 2015
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I am writing in response to today’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court that legalizes same gender marriage.
I do so primarily from a pastoral perspective because I am the bishop of all United Methodists in Arkansas. This includes those of you who are celebrating the outcome, as well as those of you who are hurting because you believe the Court made the wrong decision.
I trust you believe – and even more importantly have experienced – that you are still brothers and sisters in Christ with those with whom you disagree about this matter. Not because you like them personally or ‘agree to disagree,’ but because Jesus Christ has made us all part of the Body of Christ.
The United Methodist Church holds a tension regarding the issue of same gender marriage. On the one hand, the church has clearly stated that congregations cannot host same gender marriages on church property and that United Methodist pastors cannot perform them. On the other hand, the church strives to protect the civil rights of all persons.
So where do we go from here?
Quite simply, the Supreme Court decision changes nothing as far as The United Methodist Church is concerned because only the General Conference has the authority to do that. In light of this, I want to offer a few guidelines for pastors and congregations.
- Clergy and Boards of Trustees may not allow any United Methodist sanctuaries, buildings or property to be used for same-gender marriages. To do so is a clear violation of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.
- Clergy can assist same gender couples in finding other venues for their weddings; provide pre-marital counseling; attend the ceremony; read scripture, pray or offer a meditation; and lift up newly married same gender couples in worship or church communication.
- Clergy cannot preside over the wedding ceremony, specifically the vows, exchange of rings or the declaration and pronouncement of marriage; sign the certificate of marriage; or participate in any way that makes it appear to those present that they are conducting the wedding.
The church always must address the issues of our world. However, we can choose to do so in ways that do not reinforce the divisive patterns of polarization that so mark our culture today. One of the most important ways we can do this is to treat each others as brothers and sisters in Christ, whose grace is so powerful it unites us when we divide ourselves.
I hope that we will not allow issues around human sexuality to become what defines The United Methodist Church. Instead, may we deal with them as we continue to carry out our mission of creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
Please feel to get in touch with me if it will be helpful and please join me in praying for the unity of the Church in a divided world.
God bless you.
Grace and peace,