- by Rev. Taka Ishii -
I have only officiated at a dozen Holy Unions over the years between the late 80’s and early 2000’s. (I am so glad that we now call these services WEDDINGS.) Many of my colleagues and several district superintendents and bishops knew that I was officiating same gender weddings for a long time.
I was fortunate to be appointed to a church where 40 percent of the members were gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. The lay leader and treasurer were gay men and other officers in the church were gay and lesbian persons. As the pastor, I was charged to minister to and with the congregation and its community. This was what happened to me when I was I appointed to Metropolitan-Duane UMC, one of the predecessor congregations of the Church of the Village in Manhattan! When I officiated these Holy Union services, I never thought that I was breaking or disobeying the law of the United Methodist Church. I was just doing my pastoral duties – ministry of ALL persons.
When I was ordained, no one told me to minister to only white people, black people or Japanese people. No bishops told me to minister to only heterosexual persons, but I was charged to minister with ALL people. Over the years, I was just obeying the teachings of the Gospel and the command of the ordained ministry of the United Methodist Church to minister with ALL persons. So if a couple asks me today to officiate a same sex wedding, I will do so as I have done so in the past.
Some same sex weddings, at which I officiated, were as small in attendance as a dozen; some of them were a sanctuary full of friends, family and church members. In the case of my first same sex wedding, a woman’s father was a United Methodist pastor. Her parents did not approve of their daughter’s sexual orientation, so she came to me. She made a red stole for me to wear for their wedding, using her wedding dress material. I treasure this stole as a symbol of “Biblical Obedience!”
When I officiated at the heterosexual weddings of church members, I only saw a dozen members of the congregation in attendance; the rest of the attendees were strangers to me. However, at one same sex wedding, at which I officiated, there were many friends and family members in attendance, but to my joy, there were so many from the congregation, gay and straight alike, in attendance. What a joy to see so many loving members of the congregation in attendance, supporting and celebrating their brothers in Jesus Christ!
My last same sex wedding was held not in my church. A couple asked me to participate in their service, so I said “yes” with the approval of the pastor. On the day of the wedding, the pastor told me that he would not participate in the service, so he told me that I did not have to participate either….I participated in the service anyway and I gave a prayer as promised to the couple, and another pastor read the Scripture….the couple exchanged their vows to each other, accompanied by songs and music. After the service, the pastor of the church conducted a communion service in the chapel. It was a beautiful outdoor service with so much love and support by so many.
It is so wrong when the United Methodist Church claims to have “Open Door, Open Hears and Open Minds,” when in fact, our church is very CLOSED for the LGBT persons. It is time for us to OPEN those doors, hearts and minds NOW. I believe as many of you do also that there should not be any discriminations in our church and society – any form of discrimination of racism, sexism and heterosexism. And I will dedicate myself to that work for the rest of my life!!! God loves us ALL, and ALL means ALL.
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Rev. Takayuki (Taka) Ishii was born in Tokyo. He was ordained as a Christian minister and received a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He is a graduate of Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. After 37 years of parish ministry, first in the United Church of Christ and then in the United Methodist Church, he retired from full time parish ministry in 2011. His parish ministry included, most recently, Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, CT, First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, CT, and The Church of the Village, formerly known as Metropolitan-Duane United Methodist Church in New York City for 19 years. Currently, Rev. Ishii is actively involved in Peace and Justice works in the United States and abroad. He is also involved in non-profit organizations as a board member. When available, he accepts speaking and preaching engagements. He is a member of the The Author's Guild, Inc.