Reconciling Ministries Network stands in support of Rev. Elizabeth Davidson, Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, and the couple they married.
We are dismayed at the ways in which Bishop Sharma Lewis is responding to the complaint filed against two clergy in Mississippi, and are disappointed in what seems to be a decision to reject an opportunity for reaching a just resolution. The UMC Book of Discipline (BoD) provides a clearly defined process for handling complaints against clergy. It prioritizes a process for and shares a stated goal of reaching a just resolution, where all parties are afforded the opportunity to agree to terms that repair any harm. Bishop Lewis has unilaterally decided that there is no room for a mediated resolution. By asking the clergy under complaint to immediately surrender their credentials (which they have declined to do), she chose a more punitive approach than even the deeply harmful Traditional Plan requires.
In an era within United Methodist history in which discriminatory Church policies continue to drive more and more couples (LGBTQ+ and their straight allies) away from services of Christian marriage and toward courthouse or other ceremonies void of cherished Christian and United Methodist ritual and meaning, RMN honors this couple’s deep desire to include both their faith and their beloved faith leaders in their wedding vows.
RMN honors God’s calling, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the pastoral ministry shown by Rev. Swaim-Presley and Rev. Davidson in their decision to care for this couple. Through their participation in this wedding, they have aligned themselves with the truth that LGBTQ+ people are fully human, fully beloved by God.
For those who would like to offer support to the couple and the clergy at this time, there are two opportunities.
In joyful celebration of their marriage, and to show support as they experience their wedding day being scrutinized, you’re invited to send a wedding gift to the newlyweds. Here is a link to their registry. (Note – the wedding has already taken place. The Fall 2023 date is just so they can keep the site open for donations).
RMN’s Clergy Defense Fund was created in anticipation of this and similar kinds of unfortunate situations. If you would like to support Elizabeth and Paige as well as the couple they married as this complaint evolves, you can make a donation to RMN’s Clergy Defense Fund. Any funds not needed for their defense or care will be used for General Conference 2024. (On the donate page, after selecting your amount, click the Designation arrow and select “Please designate my gift to a specific area of need”, then select Clergy Defense Fund).