We Did: Stories of United Methodists living Biblical Obedience and marriage equality
By Rev. K Karpen
Ron and Jim had only recently joined the church. Ron grew up Disciples of Christ; Jim, Catholic. But neither had had anything to do with religion for a long time. Their coming to St. Paul & St. Andrew was the result of a New Year’s resolution. Or maybe a bet. I’m not sure.
When Harry was born, Ron and Jim took to him instantly. Not that either liked babies. Or kids. But they liked Harry. And Harry liked them. More importantly, in these times of uncertain relationships, they were one of the most stable couples we could think of. They had already been together for more than a decade, and were clearly devoted to each other and committed to a spiritual life together.
Ron and Jim took to the church right away as well. They served on committees, showed up at potlucks and events, pledged, prayed and praised God. Ron was chosen as a mentor by the youth of the church. Jim took on the daunting task of dressing up our huge sanctuary for holidays. Together they began to coordinate the ushers, showing up early each Sunday to make sure the sanctuary was fit for worship.
They loved their newfound identity as United Methodist, and a church community that embraced all of who they are. Ron once asked me whether all Methodist churches were like St. Paul and St. Andrew.
Ten years ago I asked them if they would ever want to get married. It seemed like such a rhetorical question at the time.
But times change.
Two years ago marriage equality became the law of the land in New York State. The once-unimaginable quickly became routine. Ron and Jim thought about it, and they considered just going down to City Hall and taking their vows. But by then they had been together for twenty-five years. Twenty-five years! So why not wait a bit longer and do it the way they wanted it. And the way they wanted it was this: surrounded by their friends and church family in the sanctuary they had lovingly cared for.
And the way they wanted it was the way they got it. A sanctuary full of hundreds of people that love them. Family members who flew in from Texas and Oklahoma, their states of origin. Excited co-workers eager to witness the moment. Church youth who had grown up and graduated returned for the great event. Members of the United Methodist Women pitched in with young adults, youth and other church members to prepare a heck of a party. One of the youth designed a terrific marzipan cake topper that looked just like the two of them.
Toward the end of the ceremony, it occurred to me that I had never been so powerfully aware of the Spirit of God moving in a place. It was truly awesome; there are not words to describe what God was up to in that moment. When I spoke the words, “Now, by the power vested in me by the awesome State of New York…” the room erupted in shouts and applause. No one heard another word. But I said it anyway: “I hereby pronounce you married! What God hath joined together, let no one put asunder.” I smiled. And God smiled, too.
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K Karpen is senior pastor at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew.
We Did is a project of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) dedicated to making visible our ministries to LGBTQ people and encouraging others in the UMC to transcend the institutional requirement to discriminate and make their ministries visible, too. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across the United Methodist Church. You can read all the We Did stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to We Did.