By Greg Gray
I have worked for churches all of my adult life, and whether I was leading worship or simply attending a wedding I have hear the words, “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” at weddings countless times. However, growing up in the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church I didn’t think I would hear these words in reference to me. So many doors were closed, and so many harmful messages were spewed in my direction regarding me and those in the LGBTQ community being damaged, sinful, or “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Through all of this there were also those individuals in the church who showed me the true face of Christ’s love.
They said that they love me for who I am, they affirm my call to ordained ministry, and they want to welcome both me and my partner fully into the life and ministry of the church.
After my partner, Jonathan, and I were engaged to be married, he knew that my denomination was highly important to me. I wanted to ask that The United Methodist Church, into which we were both baptized, where I continued to work, and to which I have devoted my ministry, bless our marriage.
However, because officiating a same-sex wedding is still a chargeable offense for our clergy asking a United Methodist pastor to officiate our wedding became a stressful task not just forme but for whoever this pastor would be.
On October 26, 2013 I attended the wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince at Covenant Community United Church of Christ in Center Point, Alabama officiated by Bishop Melvin Talbert. It was here that I saw United Methodist clergy from around the connection stand in support, and I heard a United Methodist bishop say that the wedding of these two men was “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” With an episcopal leader of our denomination willing to stand for justice, I asked my friend, Laura, if she would officiate the wedding of Jonathan and me. She didn’t hesitate to say yes!
So, after over a year and lots of planning later Jonathan and I stood together in Westfield UCC, where he is the pastor, and made a covenant with God and each other to love each other forever.