- by Rev. Herb Snyder -
“Will you marry me?” Those words are not that unusual. Couples ask and respond to that question all the time, but the circumstances in which those words were spoken by Rich Taylor to Bill Gatewood were not exactly ordinary.
Bill was on the way to the operating room for serious surgery when Rich asked him to marry him. The couple had been together for 25 years, but when The Rev. Robin M. Hynicka, pastor of Bill and Rick's Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, visited and prayed with Bill, he shared that his one regret in life was that he and Rick had never been married. Bill came through the very serious operation successfully, is doing just fine, and his wish to be married will come true on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 3:00pm, when he and Rick will be married by more than 30 United Methodist clergy at the Arch Street Church.
Civil marriages are not yet permitted in Pennsylvania, so this will be a “spiritual wedding,” which is more important to the couple. Some day soon they will be married in a brief and quiet civil ceremony, when Pennsylvania decides to give equal rights to everyone. Rick and Bill have been active members of the Arch Street Church for over 20 years, where Rick sings in the choir and Bill ushers just about every Sunday. In May of this year, they celebrated their 25th Anniversary together.
They met at a popular gay bar and restaurant in Philadelphia named “Woody's.” Bill was a cheer leader for Woody's softball team. Bill had come to Philadelphia from Richmond, Virginia, because of his job, and had been alone for seven years. Rick, a native of Chicago, was new to the city, was living in the suburbs, and had moved into the area to become the art director for an independent cartoon company.
After a year of dating, they moved in together and a year after that purchased their first home as a couple. They were turned down twice for a mortgage because they were “two unrelated adults living together,” but they persevered and eventually bought the house in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. They have been accepted there and they love their neighbors. Bill is accountant for a small business and Rick is employed by Vanguard, where he works with designers and writers in producing educational materials for the company.
This was a difficult year for the couple. They not only had to deal with Bill's illness, but they lost the love of their lives for fourteen years, their beloved dog, “Dolly,” who was named after Dolly Parton. When Bill was recovering from his illness, he said that he wanted another dog, so Rick obliged even though he wondered about this added responsibility while nursing Bill back to good health. They are the proud parents of a dog name “Bella,” who became very instrumental in bringing Bill out of despondency and into good health. The couple love their church and pray for the day “when the church they love recognizes their love.”
The large group of United Methodist clergy, who are so very proud to be officiating at this wedding, hope that their defiance of United Methodist Church law will hasten that day. They feel that the present stand is an offense to God and contrary to all that Christ came to give to us. The clergy are convinced that there is no place for hate, persecution, and discrimination in the Body of Christ. The clergy all stand for a change in The United Methodist Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons, eliminating all the discrimination that has crept into the Discipline, but was not there when most of them were ordained.
According to Rev. Herb Snyder, co-chair of Reconciling United Methodists in Eastern Pennsylvania along with Richard Kirk, “We are also taking this stand to demonstrate that we stand in solidarity with our esteemed colleague, Rev. Frank Schaefer, who demonstrated the true spirit of United Methodism and Christian responsibility by marrying his son and his male partner seven years ago. The Rev. Schaefer will be tried by the United Methodist Church on Monday, November 18, 2013, at Innabah United Methodist Camping and Retreat Center.”
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