While some religious organizations are grabbing headlines with their same-sex marriage protests, an equally passionate group of Christians rejoices in the District of Columbia’s new marriage equality law. For more than 20 years, we at Dumbarton United Methodist Church have been praying and working for an end to the civil and religious discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Legal same-sex marriages are an answer to our prayers.
Recognizing such marriages is a logical step for my 238-year-old congregation, Dumbarton United Methodist Church — the first Methodist church in the District. In 1987, seeking to open our hearts, minds and doors, we publicly welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families into full participation in the life and ministries of the congregation and we continue to do so today. We rejoice that at this point in history, the arc of justice now bends toward equal recognition of marriage for all couples.
Now, with marriage equality in the District of Columbia, our congregation will give its full support and blessing to those who have been excluded from this sacred rite. We will honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in D.C., who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage.
We are painfully aware that same-sex weddings are not sanctioned by our denomination, and therefore, the clergy in our congregation who perform these weddings do so at some risk. However, marriage equality is about justice and civil rights. While this country is still dealing with the vestiges of sexism and racism, our law acknowledges that it is not acceptable to discriminate against people based upon gender and race. With its new law, the District of Columbia acknowledges that it is wrong to discriminate against people based upon sexual orientation. Marriage equality is another mile marker on the road to “liberty and justice for all.”
Marriage equality is also a faith concern. Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all point to the importance and value of stable, committed relationships. Those same sources teach me that all people are to be treated equally. As a pastor, I am called to extend care to all people even as Jesus did.
Jesus kept trying to teach people to see each others’ hearts, to recognize the good and righteousness in one another. Jesus also saved his harshest words for the Pharisees who were so bound up in their narrow legalisms they could not extend grace to all God’s children. Jesus extended grace and ministry to all persons whether they were Hebrew, Gentile, Pharisee or Samaritan. Today, Jesus would extend grace to people no matter where they are from, what they look like or who they love.
Twenty plus years of ministry have woven the pastoral role into my very being. I am called to make my priestly acts available for anyone seeking them. I do not refuse anyone communion. I officiate at funerals for members and strangers. I have served as a volunteer in the pastoral care department of several hospitals. With John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, I see that the world is my parish. I will treat all couples that seek to be married at my church equally without regard for sexual orientation. This is both justice and a pastoral issue.
When it comes down to it, marriage is about love and loyalty – about two people taking the big, bold, audacious step of committing themselves to each other for life – for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health. When two people marry, they entwine their resources and well-being together, which the state recognizes and the church supports.
State and church should provide such legal recognition and spiritual support for all couples. Dumbarton United Methodist Church is committed to marriage equality. We celebrate love and loyalty wherever it is found. And we rejoice that the District of Columbia stands ready to do the same.
Rev. Mary Kay Totty is the pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.