Do I Act As I Believe, or Chicken Out?
By Rev. Yuri Ando
It was sometime in late July 2011 when Marge Kirchner, a friend of mine for years, called and asked if we could get together for breakfast. She is a snowbird and we hadn’t seen each other since her return from Florida in the spring. When I arrived at the diner, to my delight, her partner Pat was with her. Marge and Pat had been together for 16 years and they had their first wedding in Canada in 2007. After we caught up on how we had all been, Marge told me that she and Pat would like to have a wedding in New York State now that the state had legalized same-sex marriage. Then she said, “Pat and I both agreed that we would like you to officiate our wedding.” My immediate response was, “Wow. I feel honored that you asked me to do your wedding.” As a pastor, I feel honored whenever I am asked to officiate a wedding. Reality set in a few seconds later. What does it mean to officiate a same-sex marriage? It is against the current stand of the United Methodist Church, though I had always believed that a same-sex marriage is as sacred as any marriage.
I said to Marge and Pat, “My initial response is that I feel very much honored that you asked me to officiate at your wedding. Sadly, however, the United Methodist Church ,to which I belong, does not allow their pastors to officiate same-sex marriages. I think I will and would like to officiate your wedding, but let me have time with God first and get back to you. It won’t take much time.”
Whether or not I would officiate Marge and Pat’s wedding was a faith issue for me. Do I act as I believe, or chicken out so that I won’t be in a trouble? I felt strongly that I needed and wanted to act as I believe and as I sensed God was inviting me to do. Much to their delight, I told them I would perform the ceremony.
Marge and Pat’s wedding took place in the chapel of an Episcopal retreat house on a beautiful day in August 2011. Marge and Pat carefully planned their service and chose the words of their vows. There was “a service of serving each other” using two small cups that I had given them in celebration of their wedding in Canada. Saki was shared using those cups and was passed among the people who were there. A big applause came from the congregation when I declared their marriage, saying, “by the authority vested in me and in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, I now pronounce you married.”
Among the people who attended their wedding were Pat’s and Marge’s friends, some of whom had been faithful to each other for over 20 to 50 years and had kept their relationships quiet.
May true liberation, which is the heart of the Gospel message, come to our United Methodist Church, regarding same-sex marriage. May God bless the love that binds two individuals together and triumphs over any obstacles, prejudices and persecution.
Yuri Ando is pastor of Bellport United Methodist Church.
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.