SEATTLE — Two United Methodist ministers recently ‘wed’ each other in a ceremony in Seattle, Washington despite the possibility that they could face disciplinary action for violating Church law.
Joanne Carlson Brown, 60, of Tibbetts United Methodist Church and Christie Newbill, 65, of Woodland Park United Methodist Church tied the knot at a ceremony at Brown’s church on December 7th. District Superintendent Patricia Simpson officiated the ceremony, which was attended by approximately 300 supporters.
“Our marriage is our statement for declaring to our friends and family, in the presence of God, our love and commitment for one another,” Brown told the United Methodist News Service. “I never considered this as [a statement] against the United Methodist Church.”
Simpson said that she prayed about officiating the ceremony before she agreed to perform the union.
“We don’t do these things casually,” she told local television station KING 5. “I believe it was a faithful decision.”
However, the Book of Discipline outlines that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained as ministers in the denomination. It also forbids ministers from hosting or participating in “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”
Consequently, Brown and Newbill—as well as Simpson—could be disciplined or defrocked for violating Church doctrine.
“[This could lead] to losing my ordination, which could pain me to no end,” Brown acknowledged.
She told reporters that she doesn’t see her relationship as being sinful.
“I approach the Discipline the way I approach the Bible,” Brown stated. “My hermeneutic coming both to the Scriptures and the Discipline is that the Gospel is a Gospel of radical love and liberation, and anything that does not speak the word of radical love and liberation is not of God.”
But Newbill advised that she viewed her decision as being more important than upholding the Book of Discipline.
“Living my life true to myself and to God—and authentically with everyone else—I think that is the most important thing,” she said.
As previously reported, just last week, a United Methodist Minister in Pennsylvania who officiated his son’s same-sex “wedding” was defrocked after refusing to voluntarily give up his credentials. Frank Schaefer, 51, who led Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, was found guilty in November of “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.”
In 2007, he traveled to Massachusetts to officiate a ceremony between his son Tim and Tim’s homosexual partner.
“The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church,” Schaefer told the Lebanon Daily News. “It was a tough decision in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart.”
When he refused to repent, and even wore a rainbow stole to show his advocacy for homosexuality, he was ordered to repent within 30 days or hand in his credentials. He refused to do either, and was officially defrocked on Thursday.
“This episode highlights the importance of churches in all traditions protecting themselves and the cause of Christ by carefully screening would-be pastors for biblical grounding and moral character, and having effective means of accountability,” John Lomperis, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told Religion News Service. “He was not the first United Methodist minister to be defrocked for crossing these lines and will not be the last.”
Photo: King 5