Some Oklahoma United Methodist clergy and lay people are expressing their opposition to their denomination's same-sex marriage ban through advertisements in newspapers around the state.
The Rev. Trina Bose North and the Rev. Deborah Ingraham said their group, informally called Oklahoma United Methodists for Marriage Equality, wanted to counter the public statements made by the Rev. Robert Hayes Jr., Oklahoma United Methodist bishop, upholding the denomination's stance against same-gender marriage.
“We felt like, as United Methodists, we wanted to send a message of hope, because there are LGBT United Methodists that are hurt again and again when they read that our institution leaves them out,” North said. “Our voice has been very silent, and this was an opportunity for us not to be.”
North and Ingraham, both of Edmond, said the timing to place the group's ads in The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, Oklahoma Gazette and Gayly Oklahoman was crucial in the aftermath of a recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern that deemed the state's same-gender marriage ban unconstitutional.
Hayes reiterated the United Methodist denomination's stance against same-sex marriage in a Jan. 16 story in The Oklahoman.
By contrast, the group's Jan. 19 ad in The Oklahoman stated:
“Many Oklahoma United Methodist clergy, through our engagement with Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, affirm the rights and dignity of all people and celebrate the recent decision by Judge Kern that the ban on same gender marriage in Oklahoma is unconstitutional. Today we celebrate our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and pledge to express love, affirmation and equal treatment for all people.”
LGBT is the common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The Q commonly stands for questioning, Ingraham said.
Tuesday, Hayes, bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, said he is aware that Oklahoma United Methodists — like the nation — are divided on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“We don't all think alike on this issue,” Hayes said. “There are very few issues that I know of that are as divisive or as polarizing as this issue of same-gender marriage.”
Hayes said he led a recent meeting of Oklahoma United Methodist clergy in which he referred to the marriage equality advertisements. He said he knew people were curious about how he would react to the ads, so he told clergy that he planned to “lead with grace,” respecting their right to disagree with the denomination's stance.
“I said what we're going to do is we're going to respect each other's right to express themselves,” Hayes said. “We're not going to descend into some sort of chaotic free-for-all where we're pitted against each other.”