The First United Methodist Church of Dallas is holding a mass ceremony to affirm the wedding vows of same- and different-sex couples just three days before the denomination officially instates enhanced penalties for any church that ordains same-sex marriages or LGBTQ clergy.
The church’s senior pastor Andy Stoker told the Dallas Morning News that the December 29, 2019 service is “one part pastoral and one part social justice” and all “about seeing and recognizing all congregation members,” including LGBTQ congregants who can’t even get married at the church they attend.
First United’s decision to hold the ceremony came after the February 2019 vote by the worldwide General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) to adhere to the Traditionalist Plan. The plan – which was approved by 53% margin and will become official policy on January 1, 2020 – threatens to remove any Methodist churches and clergy that don’t adhere to the UMC’s official stance opposing same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
After the February 2019 vote, Methodist churches nationwide publicly rebelled against the denomination’s anti-LGBTQ stance, and an entire confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska announced to their congregation that they decided not to become members due to the church’s anti-LGBTQ stance.
In response to the vote, Stoker wrote to his congregation, “There are many who are disappointed by this ruling. My heart is broken, as this initial ruling means that as a pastor I am removed from receiving the good news of God’s call being received and I am revoked from serving in a blessed life event as a wedding.”
Although the UMC has welcomed gay and lesbian members, the church’s Book of Discipline rejects sex outside of heterosexual marriage as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
In 2013, the Church defrocked Reverend Frank Schaefer, pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Pennsylvania, for officiating his son’s 2007 same-sex nuptials in a “blatant and willful violation” of the Book of Discipline. The Church re-frocked Schaefer only after he promised never again to officiate a same-sex wedding.