We Did: Stories of United Methodists living marriage equality
By Rev. Joe Agne
First UMC of Boulder’s commitment to inclusion of LGBTQ persons is longstanding. Decades ago Rev. Julian Rush served as one of its pastors. The struggle for inclusion began in the open with his rejection as a gay man by the congregation, even though Rev. Rush had the support of the Rocky Mountain Area Bishop, Melvin Wheatley. Many lay people and clergy worked hard for close to two decades to help it become a reconciling congregation, which was achieved in 1997. In an Easter Declaration in 2012 over 300 people signed First UMC’s commitment to offer full ministry to all persons, including support for weddings for all people in the sanctuary.
Betsy Lay and Alison Wisneski came to the congregation in 2011. Betsy is the Family Life Coordinator and Alison is a leader in FUMC’s nursery and Sunday school. Betsy says, “Of course we decided to hold our wedding at First UMC. The pastors were supportive. So was the whole congregation, including the children and youth.” On the first day of autumn September 22, 2013, they were married in the sanctuary of First UMC. Over 100 members came and many friends of Betsy and Alison beyond the congregation.
Betsy indicates, “We were part of a congregation that was seeking to be biblically obedient and willing to be ecclesially disobedient. We were blessed that they wanted to stand with us and we were committed to stand with them. It is so good to be part of the everyday life of this congregation. We have never felt pointed out as the gay couple who got married here.”
Alison says, “Betsy and I are pretty different when it comes to levels of our openness. I scored nearly full extrovert on the Myers-Briggs scale, while Betsy was the perfect center of introvert and extrovert. She wanted a small, simple ceremony with just the pastors. I want to livestream it on the Love Prevails site. We found the perfect middle… We are disrupting on a level that we’re both comfortable with…. Betsy and I often joke that we believe Jesus would totally hang out with us. The Jesus we know, love and follow would have been sitting somewhere in the pews on (that) Sunday. Chances are, the Jesus we know would have been laughing and crying right along with us. We saw Jesus in the faces of the people who attended.”
Betsy and Alison asked Pat Bruns (member of the Rocky Mountain Conference) and Joe Agne (member of the New York Conference) to officiate in their marriage. Pat and Joe say we had a ready answer, “We will.” And We Did.
Joe Agne is a retired elder in the New York Annual Conference, working part-time as the associate pastor at FUMC Boulder.
We Did is a project of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) dedicated to making visible our ministries to LGBTQ people and encouraging others in the UMC to transcend the institutional requirement to discriminate and make their ministries visible, too. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across the United Methodist Church. You can read all the We Did stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to We Did.