Minn. Churches Prepare for Gay Wedding Decisions
Minnesota’s new law allowing gay marriage takes effect Aug. 1, but one former United Methodist minister with a long history of support for the issue won’t be able to publicly preside over any same-sex weddings.
Roger Lynn, a retired United Methodist pastor, performed a wedding ceremony in 1971 for two Minneapolis men, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, whose legal fight to be allowed to marry was among the nation’s first. Lynn’s role in the ceremony caused ruffles in the larger United Methodist community, and a year later its General Conference passed a resolution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
To Lynn’s dismay, that church rule still stands today.
Lynn, who lives north of Brainerd, told Minnesota Public Radio News he always hoped to perform more weddings for same-sex couples (http://bit.ly/17xLpyp ).
"I’m not going to publicly say that I’m going to do a gay marriage," Lynn said.
"There could be a trial and I could lose my pension which, you know, I’d rather not do," he said, adding, "But I would risk that."
Christa Meland, director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, said Methodists at the state level don’t have the authority to overturn the United Methodist Church’s policy, which applies to its congregations worldwide.
"The United Methodist Church, like the nation as a whole, is divided over same-sex marriage," Meland said. "There are a wide range of views within the Minnesota conference, and we recognize that people of good faith will disagree about the church’s position on certain matters."
Last year, Minnesota’s Methodist leaders voted 400 to 169 to oppose the constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a man and a woman. But the church’s policy on gay marriage can only be overturned by its international governing body, which next meets in 2016. While many United Methodist pastors in Minnesota have expressed interest in changing the rule, any move to do so would likely face opposition from United Methodist leaders in southern states as well as in Africa, where the church has a large presence.
The Rev. Walter Lockhart, pastor at Walker Community Methodist Church in Minneapolis where Lynn once served, said he is considering civil disobedience against his church’s rule.
"For me, the most important piece is to be pastoral and to meet the needs of the couple," Lockhart said. "If that crosses over the line of United Methodism, I am prepared to deal with United Methodism as I may or may not have to cross over the line."
Clergy from many religions will juggle similar decisions come Aug. 1, with different denominations and religions setting policies at national and international levels with different degrees of latitude for congregations and ministers. For example, churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America allow individual congregations to accept or reject same-sex marriages.