TRAVERSE CITY — John Ellinger loves the United Methodist Church but thought about leaving it over what he considers to be inequality in its doctrine.
“I’m very supportive of marriage equality conversations and I do think our church is way behind on this,” said Ellinger. “Current language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline is that clergy are not allowed to perform same-sex marriages or holy unions and that clergy should not allow such services to take place in United Methodist Churches.”
The retired Traverse City pastor is one of several area United Methodist pastors who are defying official church policy by signing an “Equality for All in Christian Marriage” statement that supports offering the church’s blessing for “all people who seek to live in a committed, faithful, loving relationship regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
More than 100 United Methodist clergy and 220 lay people in West Michigan signed the statement, said the Rev. Joe Bistayi, who helped draft the document. The statement will be presented to attendees and press at the United Methodist West Michigan Annual Conference June 11-14 in Grand Rapids.
“For me it is an invitation to our denomination to not be afraid to bless covenantal, monogamous love that we think God would bless,” said the Rev. Chris Lane, associate pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City. “I know the fear around this change has deep roots because our species has mostly known heterosexual unions. But the biblical story mostly tracks couples who are heterosexual.
“For me being Christian is to hold a Christlikeness in all our relationships and I think that can happen in same-sex couples as easily as in heterosexual couples. I think 50 years from now we’ll look back in amazement at the holdup. Because marriage is a conservative contract. It’s stable, it’s affirmative of family life. It’s encouraging someone to love someone until one dies. If anything, the church should be in the forefront (of the marriage equality movement).”