"Our church will stand on the right side of history": Pastor speaks out against same-sex marriage ban

Credit: First United Methodist Church Fort Collins, CBS News
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By: Caitlin O'Kane | CBS News
March 6, 2019

A pastor in Fort Collins, Colorado, is vowing to support the LGBTQ community, even if other church leaders disagree. Lead Pastor Dr. Melanie Rosa wrote a long Facebook post after the Methodist Church voted last week to ban gay clergy members and same-sex marriage.

"By now you are most likely aware of the very discouraging news coming out of the General Conference meeting in St. Louis," Rosa wrote, referring to a decision the Methodist Church leadership made last week. After three days of debate, officials and lay members voted to ban gay and lesbian clerics and the officiating of same-sex marriages. The decision sparked debate among Methodist Church members.

In Rosa's view, the church's decision is "largely unconstitutional and very regressive."

She pointed out that "2/3 of American United Methodists do not support this plan and did not vote for it," while the majority from overseas did, "representing countries that have very intolerant policies as far as LGBTQ rights are concerned." While the Methodist Church is the third-largest faith in the U.S., 30 percent of members globally are in Africa, where many nations outlaw homosexuality itself.

At the conference, Methodists who support LGBTQ involvement in the church wanted local congregations to be free to set their own rules on the topic. Instead, the newly-adopted rules stiffen punishment for violations: Clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings could be suspended without pay for a year, and defrocked if they do it again.

Rosa said many members are horrified and embarrassed by the negative press surrounding the church's decision, but she noted a passion was ignited among church members. "As one person said: 'What they gained pales in comparison to what they provoked,'" Rosa wrote. "People are mobilizing to rise up and resist the injustice and oppression that was on full display during General Conference."

The pastor vowed, "I will never lead a church that discriminates against anyone. I will relinquish my Ordination before I will be a part of an oppressive and unjust organization. I will never sign a pledge of conformity to exclude anyone."

Rosa reassured members that "LGBTQ sisters and brothers will continue to be treated as precious children of sacred worth and will continue to offer leadership and service in our church." She also quoted one of her church's "highly respected Lay Leaders" who is gay: "My husband and I feel very loved at First Church and we are not going anywhere."

The pastor said her congregation will carry on as usual and will "boldly and publicly stand on the side of inclusion and justice, particularly for those in our LGBTQ family who have been marginalized and demonized by Christianity for far too long."

Rosa pointed out that historically, the Methodist Church has been split on major issues, including slavery in the 1800s, the role of women, and sexual orientation.

"Our church will stand on the right side of history," she wrote. "Our church will be a light in this darkness. Love will prevail."