My Passion for Justice Was Greater Than My Fear
Early in April 2004 Father Luis Barrios, an Episcopal priest in charge of the San Romero de la Américas Church and a friend of mine for several years, invited me and other priests and pastors to participate and co-celebrate with him in the wedding of Dámaris Ortega, a United Church of Christ pastor, and her loving partner Rosario M. López-Rivera. At the time of the invitation, I was aware of the position of the United Methodist Church and what the Book of Discipline states about its clergy participating in same-sex weddings. Yes, I was a little afraid of the consequences of defying the law of the church, but at the same time my passion for justice was greater than my fear.
Father Barrios shared with me the importance of making a statement of inclusiveness, justice, and love to el Barrio community (Spanish Harlem) by celebrating this wedding. I remember arriving at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on 126th Street and encountering a great crowd of beautiful and happy people running, talking, arranging, putting everything together for the wedding and reception. I felt at that moment an amazing spirit of solidarity and joy and was glad I was going to be part of this historical event.
When Father Barrios and I were at the altar ready to celebrate, the bridal couple appeared and the crowd began to cheer and clap. It was indeed a true story of love. The brides looked beautiful and a little nervous, like many other couples I have married, and the sanctuary was finally filled with complete joy. The two brides moved closer to the altar and their expressions of joy and excitement signaled their readiness to engage in a loving relationship. Father Barrios and I began the ceremony.
The celebration included everything one sees in a wedding ceremony: declaration of intention, vows, exchange of rings, prayers, songs, communion, benediction, etc. But this one was unique for it showed how the traditional symbols of Christian marriage also affirm the love and commitment of two women for each other. These symbols reminded us that God’s blessing on two people getting married was not about their gender or sexuality or for that matter about anything that defines a person’s identity in society, but about their passion, love, respect, care, and commitment for each other – and that no person or institution should get in their way.
Rafael Garcia is pastor of the Spanish an English congregation of Hempstead 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.