The marriage of Bill Gatewood and Rich Taylor on Saturday, the pastorally sensitive and institutionally defiant decision of The Rev. Robin Hynicka to perform their wedding, the thirty Methodist pastors who offered a blessing to them on their special day and were threatened with charges by the United Methodist Church, and the outpouring of support from members of different religious faiths are all examples of the kind of reforms we at At the Threshold are trying to enact within the Church. As an organization, we stand for inclusion, social justice, and community.

We understand that reform does not happen in a vacuum. We are currently working with organizations like Faithful America, Reconciling Ministries Network, and Integrity USA to make sure that important issues, like marriage equality, become vital topics of discussion within the Church.

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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.

This is the third installment in a series called “The Quest for Peace in a World of Violence.” Charles deGravelles is an Episcopal deacon, chaplain and teacher at Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge where he teaches a course in peace and conflict studies. In the first installment, deGravelles wrote about his inspiration for the class and its inception. In the second installment, he wrote about class trips he took with his students to show them how the “pieces” of violence interconnect. The series will follow the progress of the class.


By Deacon Charles deGravelles

Charles deGravelles

Charles deGravelles

We are driving a yellow school bus from Baton Rouge up a two-lane blacktop to Louisiana State Penitentiary, the infamous Angola Prison. When I tell my seventeen students to be prepared to learn something here about the mystery of violence, no one raises an eyebrow. Angola, after all, is a maximum security facility, the largest and most populous in the country, where roughly eighty percent of the six thousand inmates are serving real life sentences for crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. Eighty-three men languish on Angola’s Death Row for particularly brutal offenses, each waiting, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, for years, even decades, for the moment he will be walked down a hall, strapped to a gurney, and put to death by lethal injection.

I also tell them quietly to be prepared to learn something about the mystery of peace. They ask what I mean. I enjoy their perplexity, but I say nothing. After twenty-five years of ministering at this prison, I’ve learned that words mostly dilute the experience of a person’s first visit; it is a lily beyond gilding. The prison will speak for itself today in ways that will stay with these young people the rest of their lives.

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By Jim Somerville at Ethics Daily

I see them shuffle in on Wednesday mornings when I volunteer. If it’s been either a hot, muggy night or a bitterly cold one or the rain has been pouring down outside, it can break your heart.

They take their seats with a sigh, remove their hats out of respect and wait for me to say whatever I’m going to say so that, afterward, they can get a cup of coffee and a pastry and wait for someone to call their number for a shower.

Sometimes when I mention the homeless in a sermon, someone will tell me afterward that they’ve had a bad experience with a panhandler who only wanted the money to buy alcohol, an experience that has made them suspicious of all such people.

I’ve had an encounter with a neighbor of the church who wondered why we let those people into our building at all.

“I used to live near a church in another neighborhood,” he said. “They didn’t always have homeless people hanging around.”

Read the full story at Ethics Daily.