How do you piss off a United Methodist minister?

Timothy Kincaid

June 3rd, 2011

How do you piss off a United Methodist minister?

Seriously? Have you ever met a United Methodist minister? Not exactly an excitable bunch.

But it seems to me that some UMC ministers have found a cause around which they are willing to be radical militant activists: marriage.

Now the UMC has not adopted a same-sex marriage rite. It hasn’t even approved Methodist ministers being allowed to conduct marriages. But those in the church who believe in equality have become rather, shall we say, disinclined to quietly wait for change.

I first noticed this in 2008 when California’s two conferences (Northern and Southern) thumbed their nose at their national rules and said “Fine, so our current pastors are banned from conducting marriages… well, then, we’ll vote to encourage and support retired ministers conducting same-sex marriages. That ain’t breaking no rules!”

And then this past weekend, the Baltimore – Washington Conference passed the following resolution, ensuring that this issue will be brought up next April at the national convention.

“[I]n those civil jurisdictions where homosexual persons have been granted the right to same gender marriage or civil union, ceremonies celebrating those marriages or unions may be conducted in our churches and by our ministers, the decision being the right and responsibility of the pastor.”

That wasn’t expected to pass. But the pro-gay ministers are refusing to sit still and respect the hesitations of others.

But that wasn’t really the example of how you piss off a UMC minister. That’s just progress. To really piss one off, you have to propose a marriage ban.

During the Methodists’ annual conference in St. Cloud this week, about 40 clergy members signed a statement saying they would “offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage.”

“Groups have been meeting who want to challenge parts of the United Methodist polity with which we disagree — that which relates to the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual community and Christian marriage,” said the Rev. Bruce Robbins, who serves at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.

“With the possibility of a constitutional amendment in the state of Minnesota [defining marriage as limited to heterosexual couples], this seems important.”

I can just see the indignation. “A ban? Well, I’m so angry I’ll just, I’ll just… offer the grace of the Church’s blessing, by golly! That’s what I’ll do!”

Don’t you love it when the Methodists get all defiant and activisty?

UPDATE: The Christian Post says that the number of signatories has now increased to 70. They are really pissed.

Update 2: There seems to be some confusion due to the tone of the commentary. I am not mocking these Methodist ministers. They are taking rather large risks, and are true heroes.

Reed Boyer

June 3rd, 2011

United Methodists being one of the largest mainstream Christian denominations, I’m delighted that they’re moving toward this.

After the ELCA Lutherans, of course, and trailing the Episcopalian schismatic publicity machine.


June 4th, 2011

In the United Methodist Church, there is a single national rule prohibiting clergy from presiding at a same-gendeer wedding and it applies to all clergy. A UMC minister can lose his/her position and be banned from ministry for breaking this rule. A UMC friend of mine was suspended from his position after presiding at a same-gender wedding pre-Prop 8 — two weeks with pay, the mildest possible sanction.

These UMC pastors in MN are taking some risk on this matter. They are publicly opposing the MN constitutional amendment and publicly opposing their church’s policy and asking it be changed. The church’s policy won’t be changed unless someone takes this kind of stand.

There’s a bit of snark in this article that seems undeserved to me. Don’t we want advocates from every sector?


June 4th, 2011

Your article is too short.

You fail to explain why you’re essentially making fun of them.


June 4th, 2011

Timothy and Jim: I do not understand why you are mocking people who are taking a stand in favor of marriage equality in MN. It makes some sense to me to trash religious people who oppose marriage equality. It makes no sense to me to trash religious people who support it.

Whether or not you are personally religious, there is no doubt many Americans are. They listen to their religious leaders.

I don’t know how many United Methodists there are in MN, but hearing their pastors say “We should oppose this constitutional amendment. We should change our own church’s position” seems a good thing for gay and lesbian people.

You’d rather they take the other side?


June 4th, 2011

Someone has hijacked Jim’s and Tim’s nom de plume. That’s not the real Tim nor Jim.


June 4th, 2011

@cowboy: did not cross my mind. The comments did seem out of character for them. I wonder if the original post is inauthentic, too, or has been altered.

My apologies to them both and to other readers.

Jim Burroway

June 4th, 2011

Yes, somebody’s trying to be cute. The fraudulent comments have been removed. The original post, which requires a secure login, is authentic.


June 4th, 2011

I was a United Methodist clergy for quite a while. I went through alot of counseling and came to terms with my gay self. I gave up my ordaination certificate because in the UMC you cannot be a “practising” homo only a “nonpractsing” homo to keep your ordination. Of course there are alot of don’t ask, don’t tell, but I wanted to tell about my wonderful Jewish partner. Interesting, the bishop has been opening pro-gay-she just got back from HRC in Washington DC where she protested against job discrimation of the GLBT community. It was made clear to me that she would have taken my ordination certifiicate if she knew I was having sex with my partner. So, no, the UMC is no where near being like a few other mainline churches when it comes to the rules. But I do believe we should support persons like the ones in Minnesota-unlike my former bishops, thier actions match their words, and they may pay a big price for it.

Timothy Kincaid

June 6th, 2011

Hey guys. I’m not demeaning Methodists or being snarky. (oh heavens, have I become so cynical that anytime I write with a light touch it’s seen as mocking?)

I find it amazing that the Methodists are getting fired up. They are genuinely taking a brave stance. This is no little thing and I don’t want to undermine their efforts.

But… still… it is a bit like a fiery revolution led by accountants. It’s amazing, but also amusing.

(Or to put it in terms that fellow believers will understand, I see this as a moving of the Holy Spirit… and also an evidence of God’s perverse sense of humor).


June 6th, 2011

Thanks for the update and clarification, Timothy. I appreciate BTB reporting on the Minnesota United Methodist uprising. Having known a number of courageous United Methodist ministers in my time, I do not find it out of character.

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