A Call to Action
By Cory Sparks
Dr. Cory Sparks, Ph. D., is a United Methodist minister and an At the Threshold Board member. He is also Director of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
When The Rev. Robin Hynicka visited her church member, Bill Gatewood, before he had major surgery, he said his only regret in life was he’d never married his partner of twenty-five years, Rich Taylor. This Saturday, November 9, Bill and Rich will be married in their hometown of Philadelphia by Robin and more than thirty other United Methodist pastors.
The pastors will be standing with the couple but also standing in support of Robin and of Frank Shafer, another United Methodist minister in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (area) who goes on canonical trial on November 18 for performing a same gender marriage for his son, which is prohibited. The Methodist split over same sex marriage has been making the news for some time, and the story of Thomas Ogletree’s officiating at his son’s same gender marriage was covered in publications like The New York Times.
Robin and the rest of the United Methodist clergy participating in this service could lose their ordination, their job, and their health care. They’re taking a courageous stand on behalf of justice and equality. The case has attracted the attention of many in Philadelphia, and now nationally, as it forces the hand of Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Can she and the Conference charge this many pastors without creating chaos in their churches?
If Bishop Johnson decides to prosecute these ministers, it will have a chilling effect on the movement for full equality and inclusivity in the 7.7 million member United Methodist Church. If she doesn’t, it will be a major boost for marriage equality in the church, which has been stalled for decades.
Recognizing the importance of this moment, other Philadelphia area clergy, including an Episcopal priest, a United Church of Christ pastor, and a rabbi, will join the United Methodist clergy at the altar. It will be packed, but there’s room for even more people to stand with them. Faithful America, a national Christian progressive voice, recently launched a petition to support the pastors’ stand for equality. Already more than 17,000 people have urged Bishop Johnson not to prosecute the cases. Please stand with these witnesses and sign the petition. We can support Bill and Rich as they’re married on Saturday and protect the pastors who are risking their careers to affirm their love.
Follow our twitter feed on Saturday as we celebrate Bill and Rich’s wedding and this interfaith stand for marriage equality.
United Methodists interested in inclusivity and equality in the church should join Reconciling Ministries Network. It’s mobilizing United Methodists of all sexual identities and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.