(Left to Right: Rev. Mike Tupper, Bishop Deborah Kiesey, Rev. Ed Rowe)
EAST LANSING, MI—On the heels of the nationally observed Methodist trial of Rev. Frank Schaefer, a bishop has reached resolution with two clergy who officiated same-sex weddings. Even though United Methodist clergy are required to provide the ministry of the church to all persons, current church law forbids presiding over same-sex weddings—an action that in other areas has led to church trials and defrocking.
Bishop Deborah Kiesey who oversees the Michigan area United Methodist churches was able to settle the complaints out of court, reaching a “Just Resolution” between the clergy and complainants. Part of the agreement charges the two clergy persons in cooperation with the Church to host a series of events that will emulate the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” model used in South Africa following the end of apartheid. Rowe and Tupper hope to work with Methodists across the Michigan area to provide a space for LGBTQ people who have been harmed by the church to be heard, with hopes of eventual healing to occur.
Rev. Tupper, who officiated his daughter’s wedding to another woman, said “I’m thankful to Bishop Kiesey for choosing to give precedence to Jesus’ law of love and inclusion. I appreciate the many frank discussions we had about the full inclusion of LGBT people in our churches—especially since the topic threatens to divide our denomination.”
Rev. Rowe, officiated the wedding of two of his church members, who at first were reluctant to ask him. “After reading about the trial and initial defrocking of Rev. Frank Schafer the couple were considering leaving the church,” said Rowe. “They came to me wondering if it was fair to ask me to extend the same pastoral and sacramental support to them that I offer to heterosexual couples. I told them that if they were unable to ask and receive the same pastoral care as the heterosexual members of the church it would be not only unfair but do great harm to them and to The United Methodist Church. I believe this opportunity was God sent, not in spite of the struggle this issue represents but because of the struggle and the holy conversation it can lead us to. If we allow it, God can flow through us to use this Just Resolution process and others like it to contribute to the transformation of the church beyond our wildest imagination. Not to take that opportunity would be in itself a cause for harm.”
Matthew Berryman, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, calls this Just Resolution a “faithful act of Biblical Obedience.”
“Bishop Kiesey acted as a leader for all of us by refusing to do more harm to LGBTQ people and the Church by reaching resolution with Rev. Tupper and Rowe. Her creative approach to justice is a hopeful path forward inviting us all to consider what reconciliation and healing could look like.”
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A public celebration was held on Wednesday, November 12 at University United Methodist Church 1120 S Harrison Rd, East Lansing, MI at 11AM. Watch the videos at the top of the page to hear from Rev. Mike Tupper, Rev. Ed Rowe, and Tom Robinson and their compelling explanations of the Truth and Reconciliation process they’ll be enabling moving forward. The morning also included hearing from two openly gay pastors in Michigan.
(From left to right: Rev. Peggy Garrigues, Rev. Mike Tupper, Rev. Ed Rowe, Rev. Mark Thompson)
Watch the videos from the celebration of the Just Resolution and an explanation of the Truth and Reconciliation process