The leadership of the First United Methodist Church of Austin (FUMC Austin) recently announced they will not perform any wedding ceremonies until the church's national leadership permits clergy to officiate same-sex marriages.
The Book of Discipline, which governs the United Methodist Church, supports "laws in civil society that define marriage as a union of one man and one woman."
“Rather than practicing discrimination in our wedding policy, we are going to give up some of the privileges that our opposite-sex couples enjoy and say, ‘We will all receive the same ministry in terms of weddings,'” Taylor Fuerst, senior pastor at FUMC Austin, told local NBC affiliate KXAN.
Last year, FUMC Austin's Administrative Board appointed a committee to devise a plan to address the conflict between the Book of Discipline's statement on marriage and the congregation's "commitment to full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of this church."
On Sept. 24, following an 11 a.m. religious service, a church-wide vote was held on a resolution that would "adopt a policy that treats weddings of opposite-sex and same-sex couples equally but does not violate the Book of Discipline." The resolution, which needed 75 percent approval to pass, was supported by 93 percent of the voting congregation.
As a result of the policy change, FUMC Austin clergy will not officiate any weddings, but they can offer a blessing, prayer or homily to couples. Weddings that were already scheduled before the Sept. 24 vote will take place as planned.
“As a church we are in covenant together, and we all seek to follow Jesus who set the example for loving sacrifice,” Pastor Fuerst said in a statement following the vote. “Our congregation voted overwhelmingly to stand not for issues or principles, but for people.”
Going forward, FUMC Austin said it is "committed to working with other UMC congregations in Texas and beyond to advocate for change in United Methodist Church policies that discriminate against LGBTQ persons."