June 25, 2008
Dear Church members:
On June 17, 2008, the State of California made it legal for same sex couples to obtain legal marriage,
the same status extended to married couples of the opposite sex. However, the Discipline of the
United Methodist Church states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian Teaching, while it
upholds the sacred worth of every individual.
If an ordained United Methodist minister holds a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple, that
minister is liable to be brought up on charges and may lose his/her orders.
There are dozens of United Methodist clergy in our California-Pacific Annual Conference who hold that
the Discipline is wrong on this matter, and who believe that it is our responsibility to provide pastoral
care to all our members, including couples of the same sex who wish to be married by their pastors in
their churches. Attached is the summary of the Cal-Pac Annual Conference written by Dr. Larry Hygh;
in the summary you will read the various resolutions and statements we considered this past week.
We are exploring ways to respond compassionately to this situation. While we do this, I thought it might
be helpful for you to know my current thinking about this.
At this time, if two people of the same sex wish to be married but they are NOT a part of our
congregation, I would refer them to another denomination where the minister is free to perform
such a ceremony.
If the couple IS part of the congregation, I will consult with that couple as to what they want for
their ceremony. As a pastor, I am charged with caring for the ritual lives of our members and
marriage is no exception.
As a Conference, we are looking for different ways to accommodate our membership, upholding the
dignity and commitment of each couple who wish to make sacred their marriage vows whether
homosexual or heterosexual. For instance, one suggestion is to have a retired clergy member with ties
to the congregation sign the marriage license, while the appointed pastor presides over communion.
Another suggestion is for the appointed pastor to simply disobey the Discipline. I appreciate your input
on this matter.
Our denomination is bound to struggle with this issue for the next decade at least. Let us hope and pray
that our United Methodist church will welcome ALL God’s children sooner than later. Until that day, we
will continue a faithful witness that our discipline is wrong to single out same-sex couples and exclude
them from the full blessings of the denomination. We at First Church will never exclude anyone who
comes to us ready to walk the disciples’ path.