On October 7, 2014, I did something I never thought I would be able to do in my home state of Oklahoma. That was to get married to the man I love! Our original plan was to go away to another state and legally get married, then come back home and have a reception for family and friends. Even in the planning stages, my now husband would occasionally look at me strangely when my response to planning was, “I don’t know, I never thought about it.”
The concept of me ever getting married, period, was a far stretch from reality.
For so long, I never thought living as a gay man was attainable because of the consequences of being excommunicated from my faith community and shunned by family would be devastating. Fast forward several years, wrapping my brain around the idea of our society progressing for me to be able to marry the person I love, much less in the extremely conservative and religious state that I was born and raised in, is mind-blowing.
I’ve heard stories of straight women who’ve planned their wedding, on paper or in their head, since they were little girls. Guys typically don’t do this. And gay guys who grew up with a super conservative, fundamentalist pastor as a father definitely don’t do that. When something seems so unattainable, so far on the outer edge of existence, planning the details or thinking of what centerpieces to have, or what I would wear on my wedding day, never entered my small mind. Now that I’m actually planning a ceremony to join the legal part of my commitment, there’s a lot more involved than I ever imagined.
The thing I want to focus on though, is not the ceremony of actually having a wedding, but the fact that I can’t do all the things I want to, at my own church.
After leaving my old church of 34 years, I found a very welcoming, extremely warm Reconciling Congregation at St. Stephen’s UMC in Norman, OK. It’s not that my congregation isn’t happy for me and my husband getting married. The support and outpouring of love from them makes my heart soar.
The United Methodist Church, on the other hand, will not allow a union of our love and commitment to one another be displayed in our own sanctuary.
No vows, no commitment ceremony is allowed between two people of the same gender. So my questions is, “Why is the love that my husband and I share not as sacred as a couple of two people of different genders?”
Constitutionally the law has agreed that the state in which I reside cannot say that marriage is only allowed between people of different genders, but the church that I love and attend cannot share that same sentiment.
I know there is still a lot of controversy in The UMC regarding LGBTQ siblings not being allowed to share in the same faith journey as our heterosexual counterparts. If my faith calling were to say that I wanted to go to seminary, I would have to do so either a) uncertain about when, if ever, I would be able to practice my faith and be ordained as a gay spiritual leader in my UMC faith, or b) go to seminary for a different faith, perhaps Episcopalian, UCC, Lutheran, etc.
It hurts my heart to know that although our slogan as a faith is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors,” I don’t feel we’re as open as we’d hope. I know that more and more congregations are, and prepare to show their support, for ALL people. Reconciling Congregations are added every day, there are deep discussions within The UMC and with any luck measures will be passed at the next General Conference.
But until then, I wait, pray and hope that my beloved faith community can share my covenant of love and commitment, with the same love, devotion and excitement as any other couple who share it with their faith communities.