Portland’s First United Methodist Church recently adopted a resolution calling for the defeat of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 36. This is the congregation I served as director of community outreach before coming to seminary. FUMC is a Reconciling Congregation and was given the “Profile in Courage” award from Basic Rights Oregon in 2000. Below you will find an article from their newsletter The Circuit Rider that contains the resolution they adopted and their explanation for doing so:
Beginning last spring and continuing through the past month, First UMC has sponsored forums on the topic of same-sex marriage, with the aim of engaging our congregation in dialogue (or as John Wesley might put it, "holy conferencing") on a timely issue that also commands our attention in November's election.
Last spring, a general session on the same-sex marriage garnered a large attendance. Just a few weeks ago we revisited the issue with a more specific presentation about the pros and cons of Ballot Measure 36 (which qualified for November's ballot after our spring forum). Then on September 19 members of First UMC gathered for a time of prayer and spiritual reflection, engaging in the discipline of spiritual discernment to ask the question: “What is God's will for our congregation on this topic?”
Reflecting on these events and the outcomes of the discernment process, the Leadership Council at its September 22 meeting approved this resolution:
We are United Methodists who believe that our Christian faith demands social justice and equality. We confess that as a body we are not of one mind on the right to marry or the definition of marriage, and we seek to discern God's will for us and our human relationships. However, we oppose any state or federal constitutional amendments or laws that would deny equal protections, equal rights, the enumerated privileges or immunities guaranteed by the constitution to citizens regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Therefore, we recommend a No vote on Ballot Measure 36, which seeks to amend the Oregon Constitution by defining legal marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
This resolution was considered and voted upon after considerable dialogue and prayer. Key to the Leadership Council's action was, first, an acknowledgment of First UMC's historic and longstanding support of civil rights. And at the same time, the Leadership Council also recognized that this question engenders other opinions, varying and also valid. Reconciling these two points of views resulted in the language you read above. Briefly, here's how to understand the Leadership Council's action on behalf of our congregation: We endorse equal civil rights for everyone. We are not yet of one mind on the question of same-sex marriage. We turn to God to discern God's will for us. In the meantime, we reject the human measures that would interfere with our discernment. We earnestly seek to continue our
prayer and study.
Such a result likely will not surprise most United Methodists. After all, John Wesley pretty much suggested as much: On essential matters of Christian belief, he preached, Methodists are united; but on non-essential matters, he added, Methodists “think, and let think.” And, he said, they pray. Even today, as we attend to current issues and headlines, our heritage of relying on Scripture, tradition, reason and experience continues to be relevant, it thrives, and it indwells still in our every act.
Hear what Spirit is saying to the Church: Thanks be to God. Amen!