“In caring for our congregation and community, we joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring a Christian Union.”
~ Adopted by the Highlands United Methodist Church Council, March 27, 2013
~ Affirmed by the All Church Conference, January 5, 2014
A Letter from Rev. Brad
When I was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church (UMC), I was asked a series of questions asked of Methodist clergy since the time of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. One of the questions asked me if I would “support and maintain” the Church’s discipline and polity. I answered, “I will”, and that answer is still true today. When it comes to the UMC’s stance on homosexuality, it is important for me to note that “support and maintain” does not mean unquestioning adherence.
I, along with a great number of my colleagues from across the denomination, have felt a tension between the love of God expressed through Jesus the Christ in our scriptures, which we have been asked to preach, teach, lead from, and live witness to, and the church polity found in our Discipline (the book of Church Law). This tension is rooted in the fact that I find the denomination’s stance on homosexuality, that it is “incompatible with Christian teaching”, incongruent with love of God, the life of Christ, and the movement of the Holy Spirit as found in our scriptures. This tension recently reached a new decision point when Civil Unions became legal in the state of Colorado.
As a pastor, it is my sincere honor and privilege to be invited to officiate at ceremonies celebrating the love, commitment, and faithfulness of a couple. When a member of our congregation or our community asks me to officiate their service, it opens a new level of pastoral relationship and allows me to demonstrate the gracious welcome of a community of faith like ours. Officiating these ceremonies allows me great opportunity to be in ministry and to spread the good news we celebrate together as a congregation. However, the UMC’s stance on homosexuality has led to the prohibition of same-sex unions, leading pastors in our state who chose to follow the exact letter of the Discipline to turn away community members and members of their congregations.
As a matter of faithful conscience and pastoral responsibility, I will not deny the relationship and welcome of God’s grace to any couple who is prepared to be united. This could be considered in contradiction to the polity of the UMC. However, I have no doubt that offering pastoral ministry to a prepared couple is perfectly aligned with the love of God as demonstrated through the life and teachings of Jesus and the values of faithfulness and covenantal relationship found within our scriptures. In fact, to not do so would be in contradiction of the same UMC polity that names it my responsibility to “embody the teachings of Jesus” and “build the body of Christ as a caring and giving community, extending the ministry of Christ to the world”. From my earliest memories of Sunday school, the UMC has taught me that the teachings of Jesus are love, acceptance, justice, and hope. Denying the grace of the Church’s blessing to a prepared, loving, committed couple does not embody those teachings or extend the ministry of Christ to the world.
I recognize that there are some within our congregation who may not agree with me or the actions of SPRC and the Church Council on this issue and want to express that I am grateful that we have a diversity of opinions within our church family. Please know that I cherish the opportunity to discuss this, and any topic, over coffee. I have had these conversations at every level of the church- local, regional, national, and global- and always come away from each conversation glad to have been in dialogue.
I remember as a child coming across a verse in the book of Acts that has shaped my life and ministry ever since. In the 10th chapter, in the 34th verse, the Apostle Peter says these words- “I am really learning that God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.” As we strive to live life according to God’s will, I look forward to continuing the generation after generations long work of removing the partialities humanity has constructed that divide children of God into groups, placing some over others.
I give thanks that I serve in a congregation that can carry the prophetic banner of justice and love so boldly and proudly.
May you Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,