Accountable to God First
As I drove to the home where the wedding was to take place, I was a little nervous—not because I was officiating a marriage ceremony between two women, but rather because I had my small children in tow. And the reason I was nervous about bringing the children had nothing to do with the couple getting married; it had everything to do with the fact that my very active four-year-old son would be unsupervised as I performed the ceremony. I had visions of him helping himself to cake or tipping over the candles while I was busy being the minister. Despite my well-founded concerns, Kris and Susan had heartily encouraged me to bring my kids, Cat (6) and Alex (4). The celebration was to be a relaxed family affair, held in the backyard of the lovely home that they shared with their four children.
“Why aren’t they getting married in a church, Mommy?” asked Cat as we drove.
“Because both of them have been married before and they want to do something different,” I explained. Although this was true, it wasn’t the whole story. I thought for a moment, then I continued. “It’s also because the people getting married are both women and the church won’t let them.”
“Why?” she asked, eyes widening. “Do they love each other?”
“Then I don’t understand,” she answered.
Meanwhile, all her brother wanted to know is whether there would be kids to play with and if he could have a “treat.” I assured him that there would be plenty of both.
This was 1999, and I am staggered to think that little has changed in our ever-changing church. Kris and Susan had asked me whether I would “get in trouble” for performing the ceremony. Although marriage equality was yet a distant dream, they had hoped that the church would honor their union, even if the state did not. I told them that, yes, I could face disciplinary action by officiating but that I felt accountable to God first and foremost. Refusing to bless their union would mean compromising my understanding of the Divine. What kind of example would this set for my children? A Gospel of exclusion was not one that I wanted to teach.
The ceremony was heartfelt and beautiful. Towards the conclusion, Susan’s sister, Marion, read the following:
As the big sister, I have been asked to address you today on behalf of Kris and Susan. They are two people who have joined their lives because of their unending love and respect for each other. Today they are surrounded by family and friends, who have shared their home, their love, and their four beautiful kids, many times before. Today recognizes their partnership and their commitment, which could have been invisible due to its less than traditional nature. What they have learned by joining together is that, in following their hearts and being honest with their feelings, the path has twists and turns. They have learned that sometimes you have to take risks to achieve happiness. Most of all, they have learned their wealth. How rich to be surrounded by children, family and friends who have been so loving, caring and supportive. How lucky to have found each other, and how incredibly fortunate to have a beautiful day like this to celebrate their vows with all of you. They thank you from the bottom of their hearts and ask you to join them in some hearty celebration this evening.
As evening descended and the stars appeared, Susan and Kris shared their joy with those assembled. Their children participated, mine behaved, and we danced in the light of the One who is love, only love.
Andie Raynor is an ordained elder in the New York Annual Conference working in extension ministry at Greenwich Hospice.
We Did is a project of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) dedicated to making visible our ministries to LGBTQ people and encouraging others in the UMC to transcend the institutional requirement to discriminate and make their ministries visible, too. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across the United Methodist Church. You can read all the We Did stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to We Did.