Why did I do it? I could lose the only work life I have ever known. My hard earned and long used ministerial credentials could be removed. I might have to face a demeaning trial court. Why did I do it?
Because I love my daughter.
My daughter Sarah came home for a visit last November. She shared with my wife and I, “Ali and I are planning on getting married this coming summer, sometime in August of 2014.” They had been a couple for almost 8 years. The state in which they lived had just legalized same gender marriage. We were so excited for them.
Sarah has always been a witness to me of what it means to live for God in a more radical and complete way. As a youth she spent many summers overseas in mission to the needy. She challenged me to live more closely with the poor. This eventually led my wife and me to serve a small Appalachian mission church in Kentucky for five years.
Last fall I was closely following the trial of Frank Schaeffer for officiating at his son’s wedding. I was shocked by the eventual verdict and severe sentence – the loss of his ministerial credentials. Frank was simply doing what any loving minister father would do for their child.
I wrote in my journal that month: “Should I officiate at Sarah’s wedding? If I do, should I try to keep it quiet or should I be willing to publicize it?” I wondered if God was calling me to support LGBTQ people like my daughter by “going public”. As I watched Frank Schaeffer, I knew my decision might have significantly negative consequences.
It wasn’t until March 28th of this year that Sarah and Ali finally nailed down their wedding date. By that time I had prayed and discussed and discerned my understanding of God’s will.
My answer boiled down to one statement: “I love my daughter.”
Because I love my daughter I decided to sign the marriage license and therefore violate the law of the United Methodist Church. I chose love over legalism.
Because I love my daughter I decided to support LGBTQ people and get involved in the Reconciling Ministry Network. This is the United Methodist organization that works for the full acceptance of gay people in our church. I accepted the role of coordinator for the West Michigan chapter in July.
Because I love my daughter I decided to work toward helping the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church be fully welcoming to LGBTQ people. I have talked with people from other conferences in our denomination where it is a reality already. It gives me hope that soon it will be true for us as well.
Because I love my daughter I signed the marriage license on August 18th.
Because of this, a complaint was filed and I’ve been in a supervisory response process with our Bishop. We are hoping a trial will not be necessary.
But I’d do it again…because I love my daughter.