70 Methodist ministers pledge to marry same-sex couples, defy denomination’s ban

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An anti–gay marriage amendment that will appear on the 2012 ballot is already causing ripples in one Christian denomination. At an annual meeting of Minnesota’s Methodist churches this weekend, 70 ministers signed a statement pledging to marry any same-sex couples who seek such a union within the church. There are 365 Methodist churches in Minnesota, and the number of pastors making the pledge continues to grow. Methodist clergy are currently prohibited by the denomination from marrying same-sex couples.

Rev. Bruce Robbins, pastor of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, brought a statement up at the conference that read:

We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage. We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act. We thank the many United Methodists who have already called for full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church.

We repent that it has taken us so long to act. We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the Church to the world, and we are complicit. We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer.

Any United Methodist person in Minnesota Conference who conducts Christian marriages is welcomed to sign.

Pastor Robbins said the move was in reaction to the anti–gay marriage amendment that will be on the ballot in 2012.

“With the possibility of a constitutional amendment in the state of Minnesota (defining marriage as limited to heterosexual couples), this seems important,” he said, according to the United Methodist Church news service.

Church law states, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

The penalty for violating that law could cause ministers their ordination.