More than 50 United Methodist clergy show support of marriage of gay couple

Clergy and faith leaders gather outside Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia in support of  Richard Taylor and William Gatewood (at top of stairs in doorway) after their wedding.  A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Clergy and faith leaders gather outside Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia in support of Richard Taylor and William Gatewood (at top of stairs in doorway) after their wedding. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) — Inside the walls of a 150-year-old United Methodist church something new happened Nov. 9 when two gay men were surrounded by more than 40 faith leaders who blessed their marriage and recited in unison, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

Richard Taylor (left, center) and William Gatewood sing a hymn with clergy and faith leaders after their wedding at Arch Street United Methodist Church.. At left rear is the Rev. Robin Hynicka, senior pastor. At right is the Rev. Herbert Snyder, who served Arch Street before his retirement.

Richard Taylor (left, center) and William Gatewood sing a hymn with clergy and faith leaders after their wedding at Arch Street United Methodist Church. At left rear is the Rev. Robin Hynicka, senior pastor. At right is the Rev. Herbert Snyder, who served Arch Street before his retirement.

Richard Kevin Taylor and William Robert Gatewood celebrated their 25-year relationship with a service of Christian marriage inside stately Arch Street United Methodist Church, and people cheered.

A choir of more than 30 voices and a 2,322-pipe organ from 1870 swelled the marble edifice with sounds of joy. Several times during the ceremony, the wedding guests stopped the proceedings with extended applause and later danced in the aisles as the couple processed out with hands raised while the organ played “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”

The Rev. Robin M. Hynicka, senior pastor of Arch Street, estimated 36 United Methodist clergy and nine clergy from other faith traditions were standing together at the front of the church to recite the Declaration of Marriage, Lord’s Prayer and Blessing of Marriage. An additional 17 United Methodist clergy and eight clergy from other faiths had their names added to the marriage certificate by proxy. The total count could increase, Hynicka said.

This wedding stirred many emotions in the denomination. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Pennsylvania and The United Methodist Church forbids ordained clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings. The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, forbids same-sex marriage in United Methodist churches and declares marriage is between a man and a woman. Since 1972, the Book of Discipline has stated that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The law book also declares every person is a person of sacred worth.

What does the church say

The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, since 1972 has proclaimed the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The book prohibits United Methodist churches from hosting and clergy from performing “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

The 2012 General Conference, when it met April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla., rejected efforts to change that language, including a proposal to say the church was in disagreement about homosexuality. General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, will next convene in 2016.

Officiating at same-sex unions is a chargeable offense under the Book of Discipline. Clergy convicted in a church court can face a loss of clergy credentials or lesser penalties. However, church law does not censure those who disagree with church teaching on this matter — only those who actually take actions that violate church law.

The Book of Discipline also states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

After a life-threatening illness, Gatewood, 70, told Hynicka that he wanted to marry Taylor in their church. The couple have been members of Arch Street for more than 20 years.

“I was called to ministry more than 40 years ago and have been in active ministry for 35 years,” Hynicka said. “I can’t remember any other moment like today when I absolutely felt I was doing what God wanted me to do. To deny this opportunity would have been denying the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Gavin Patrick Mahoney, a sacred music major at Westminster Choir College, said the wedding meant a victory for love. “It was so touching to see the happiness experienced by everyone in a special moment like this.”

In addition to celebrating the couple, the pastors said they wanted to stand in solidarity with the Rev. Frank Schaefer who will face a church trial Nov. 18 for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding seven years ago. Schaefer, who will be on trial in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference, said the wedding was wonderful to see.

Hynicka said this wedding was a challenge to “hypocrisy.”

“Today I am no longer a self-avowed, practicing hypocrite,” Hynicka said.

* Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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  1. Roy

    It is sad that clergy will get into more trouble for re-baptizing a person in the UMC, and nothing more than a slap on the wrist is done when clergy performs a homosexual marriage. The Bible says that homosexual activity is wrong. What needs to happen in the UMC is our Bishops and District Superintendents need to get a backbone and affirm the scriptures. When they do that is junk will stop. Every church that has accepted this practice (homosexual practice) has split, and those churches are no better off in membership or attendance. The truth is those churches are worse off. Compromising in this area is a lie from Hell, and it will kill the UMC just like it has killed those churches who have embraced it.

    1. David Grueser

      Well said. God bless. The problem is, our Bishops and DS’s are more concerned with their “political carriers” that they will never do this. And the clergy that stand against this apathetic attitude, and call for an accountability of these “leaders”, find themselves ostracized and mysteriously in appointments that end their ministries in the UMC.

  2. Libny

    It is a shame and a hard blow to the Church taking sides with politicians and liberal clergy! Where are we going? What moral example are we to the world? We glory in what we should repent. God have mercy!

  3. WAD

    The Bible. There is no other concrete source for the Christian faith. Without this written Word, there would be no Christianity of any denomination. Therefore, we say YES to the authority of both the Old Testament and New Testament when we join the United Methodist Church.

    Therefore, as Christians, as United Methodists, we are to look to the Bible for the definition of MARRIAGE, along with the definition of all things that guide our lives.

    Now, the pro-same sex marriage advocates in the UMC can resolve this conflict once and for all. Simply direct the church to all the Old and New Testament Books, Chapters, and Verses that state or even imply that same sex marriage is the same as opposite sex marriage and that the two types of marriage are to be considered the same and equal.

  4. name of jesus

    I am offended to see, some compare being gay to salvery, being, black and being a woman. We had no choice about any of this. But when I see people who one day are married with children and the next day your gay, this a lust of flesh. Look we are all born into sin, but God does not expect us to stay that way. We are all born with lusful desires but that does not mean that God wants us to stay that way and follow them. Jesus gave us a way to come out of sin and out of lust when he died on the cross. So you can’t compare a lust of the flesh to being black or a woman.

    1. Bob K

      At one time, it was believed by many that the Bible condoned slavery. At one time, it was believed by many that the Bible was clear that women should have no authority in church leadership. So, yes I can make those comparisons to views of gay bigotry.

  5. WAD


    Amy DeLong got a 20 days suspension for performing a same sex ceremony. Sounds more like a 20 day vacation. If this is the new standard of punishment, then these pending “trials” will be nothing more than expensive (money from apportionments) meetings of the involved parties to mock the church, the Bible, and the Book of Discipline.

    You’re right, many others have paid much higher penalties than that for equal or less offenses. Someone pointed out earlier, if this is the new penalty for performing same sex union ceremonies, then the church must go back and rescind the penalties for all those previously involved and return credentials and financial compensation.

    1. Diane Hawk

      The inability of our church to hold pastors and bishops accountable to scripture and the Book of Discipline is serious indeed. In fact, it is virtually impossible to live under the authority of scripture AND the BOD at the same time. We are ALL hypocrites. I retired early after 24 years of active ministry, because I could not support our administrative practices (especially with regard to salary-based appointment-making). I have tried to be supportive of the church I attend, but it has been challenging. The truth is that our Book of Discipline needs to be COMPLETELY rewritten.

      Fortunately the 2012 General Conference set up a task force to begin the task of creating a new GLOBAL Book of Discipline. Bishop Strieff of Switzerland is chairing the task force, and our Council of Bishops is currently meeting. They are reflecting on what it means to be a global church (as part of their agenda).

      I am encouraged by this. Perhaps The United Methodist Church should admit that this experiment in American Christianity is no longer a faithful expression of Wesleyan Christianity. Let’s think outside of our American box and become who God is calling us to be.

  6. j

    We are all born with sin and lusful desires. You see children form the time they can walk knowing how to lie, steal, cheat,and even lust at an early age. Does this mean that because you have always lust for something it should stay that way. The devil tempts us with sin so early in life that if its not broken by an earth age it becomes a way of life. I was a very angry child, but I thank God that through his work I learn that my anger does not glorify him. We are not suppose to stay in your sin. If you think you were born that way, that is why Jesus say we need to be born again of the spirit. Then you are a new creation, no longer led by lust This is not a churh issue, this is a lust issue!!!! There is Scripture supporting women, blacks, divorce, but there is not one support a homosexual life.

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