Local members of the United Methodist Church have approved a resolution May 28, 2011 to allow pastors to perform same-sex union and ceremonies in jurisdictions which have approved gay marriage laws.
The potentially historic resolution, which was put before the annual Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, passed by a slender margin. The result will now open the way for a vote on the matter at the Church’s national conference in 2012.
The result came as a surprise to many, including those responsible for putting the resolution forward in the first place. Members of Washington’s Foundry United Methodist, which proposed the resolution, did not expect it to be approved.
According to the Washington Post, Rev. Dean Snyder commented: “We presented the resolution as an occasion to have a conversation. Frankly, I didn’t think it would pass. This is very exciting, very moving.”
The resolution seeks to amend the Church’s “Book of Discipline”, so that it would allow church pastors to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. However, the passing of the resolution at local level will not bring the proposals into effect.
Before coming into force, the Church’s General Conference, which is scheduled to meet in April 2012 in Tampa, will also have to approve the resolution. The 2012 vote will see approximately 1,000 delegates asked to vote on the matter, with a majority needed to pass the resolution.
The development is a vast change in direction for the United Methodist Church. In 2009 the Church’s top court ruled that clergy, both active and retired, were not authorized to perform same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Performing such services is "a chargeable offense," Bishop Beverly J. Shamana ruled in April 2009. UMC's Judicial Council at that time affirmed her decision.