We Did: Stories of United Methodists living marriage equality
By Rev. Doug Cunningham
When I first invited Amanda to church, she was not interested. She explained that the last time she’d been to worship, the priest had taken the occasion of Christmas Eve to criticize homosexuality. Amanda, who is a lesbian, told her family she would wait in the car.
I assured her that our church was different. And one Sunday morning, she joined us for worship. She was inspired enough to bring her partner Smiley with her to the next service, and they became regulars. When we started a Bible Study, they were two of the first to sign up. And when they told me they were planning to get married, and that they wanted me to officiate at their wedding, I was delighted. We met several times for marriage counseling and planned the ceremony for October 14, 2011.
When I arrived at the Josephine Butler Center on the big day, I found the two of them in a back room. They were anxious about declaring their love for each other in front of so many family members and friends. But when the two of them entered the room to begin the ceremony, any anxiety melted away in their joyful radiance. The presence of the Spirit of God was as palpable as I have ever experienced it at a wedding. The ceremony, especially their vows, was deeply moving and the congregation broke into joyful applause.
At the reception, one man told hilarious stories about introducing Smiley to the gay dating scene when she first moved to New York City. Her aunt from Mississippi came up next to share a song Smiley’s grandmother used to sing to her when she was a child. It was inspiring to see people from such a broad spectrum unite around this beloved new couple.
In a recent email Amanda wrote, “I’m so glad we’re married! …I’m grateful to have had that blessing from you, the church, our friends and family. It brings a depth and meaning to our relationship that supports us in tough times and encourages us in good ones.”
Doug Cunningham is pastor of New Day United Methodist Church.
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.