An overwhelming percentage of the congregation, about 90 percent voted on September 24 to put a complete stop to wedding ceremonies supposed to be held in its chapel and sanctuary until the church’s national leadership lifted the gay marriage ban.
In its social media post, the Austin branch of the church wrote that 93 percent of its congregants voted to stand in total solidarity with individuals of faith. The church said that ceremonies should be equal for all who want to get married. The web page of the church’s national governing body states that it supports all civil society laws which define marriage as the union of a single man and single woman.
Couples who have previously scheduled weddings prior to the resolution will have their weddings as planned. The church clergy, however, would not schedule any new ceremonies. To make their point doubly clear, the church released a video on their social media page on October 5. The video elaborates on the reasons that went into the decision. Reverend Taylor Fuerst, the senior pastor, said that this step was taken so that the national governing body takes notice and take steps to make suitable changes. The Supreme Court of the United States has previously legalized gay marriages in all the 50 states as part of a historic ruling delivered in 2015. The clergy in the UMC, however, stands to be defrocked if they officiate any same-sex marriages.
The constitution of the UMC states that all persons continue to be sacred. At the same time, the Book of Discipline of the denomination holds that Christian teaching and homosexuality are incompatible. Present policies of the wider church prohibit any ‘self-avowed practicing homosexual’ to be ordained. Pastors along with their churches were barred from hosting or performing the same-sex weddings.
To justify its stand, the Austin unit of the UMC argued that the policies of the national governing body when it comes to sexuality and marriage are not compatible with Christ’s inclusive teachings. They said that these teachings are also incompatible with the constitution of the UMC itself. The UMC has about seven million congregants in the US alone. It has struggled on the ways to minister the LGBTQ people.