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Some United Methodists speak out against the denomination's same-sex marriage ban

A group of Oklahoma United Methodist clergy and lay people who disagree with the denomination's ban on same-sex marriage are expressing their dissent through recent advertisements in newspapers around the state.
by Carla Hinton Published: February 1, 2014
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North, 38, said Hayes' words at the clergy gathering alleviated any concerns she had about publicly expressing her opposition to the denomination's same-sex marriage ban.

She said just as Hayes has responded to the opposing voices with grace, so the group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community must continue its “graceful dissent.”

North and Ingraham, 60, said Epworth United Methodist Church, where Ingraham is senior pastor, is part of the Reconciling Network, a network of United Methodist churches across the country working toward full inclusion for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the church.

The two ministers said the denomination's Book of Discipline prohibits same-sex marriage and ordination of openly gay individuals, but the network is hopeful for the day when church leaders change the denomination's stance in favor of marriage equality.

Until that time, they said it's important that United Methodists who disagree with the prohibitions tied to homosexuality let people know how they feel.

North, who attends Epworth, said it made sense that she and Ingraham, who are both straight, take a lead role, as part of a Reconciling Network church, in placing the ads. She said there are others in other churches around the state who feel less comfortable expressing themselves publicly.

However, North and Ingraham said momentum for such public dissent is growing. They said 70 Oklahoma United Methodist clergy and 280 laypeople signed a 2011 statement in favor of the denomination changing its stance on same-sex marriage and ordination of openly gay individuals. Ingraham said the local statement tied in with a similar national statement called Altar for All.

Ingraham said the statements were prepared as a way to influence delegates at the denomination's General Conference, a once-every-four-years gathering held in 2012, but delegates at that meeting chose not to alter the church's position on the targeted issues.

Moving forward

North said the recent federal ruling, now headed to an appellate court, is another sign that the United Methodists who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community should express their views.

She said the hope is that the group can help usher in a new era of understanding and acceptance for LGBT individuals within the United Methodist Church.

“We can move forward together,” North said.

As for Hayes, he said he considers himself the “bishop of everyone” in the conference whether or not they are from the LGBT community.

However, he said he must uphold the vows he took to uphold the law and disciplines of the denomination.

“I seek to be grace-filled while at the same time, at the end of the day, I must uphold the laws of the church. I'm in a situation where I'm in the extreme center,” Hayes said.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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