January 7, 1999


Statement by California-Nevada Clergy

Service of holy union, Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett

We, as clergy in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, will officiate at the holy union service for Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton. After much careful prayer, study and reflection, we will take this action because:

We believe that we are acting in the way in which Jesus Christ would act. In order to be obedient to our calling as ministers of Jesus Christ, proclaiming good news of God's love to all people, we believe that we are called to bless loving committed relationships between Christian people, regardless of their sexual orientation. In taking this action, we sense that Jesus stands with us.

We are responding to the call of Jesus as reflected in Scripture. Jesus was very deliberate in placing the need for healing and renewal above the need for obedience to ecclesiastical authority. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, which was forbidden. Jesus offered healing and blessing to those who were the victims of marginalization and rejection in his day. Women, children, those who were physically and mentally ill, colonial oppressors and those who were foreigners were all rejected by religious authorities, but were affirmed by Jesus.

We believe that, as pastors, we have no choice but to be the vehicle for God's blessings upon those in our congregations. We are not responding to "an issue" but rather are responding in a pastoral way to those in our congregations who live in committed relationships of love and fidelity.

We are responding to the call of our United Methodist discipline: To affirm in practice the belief that "Homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons, are individuals of sacred worth All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.... We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." (Paragraph 65G)

To protect equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. We reaffirm that "Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships." (Paragraph 66H)

To obey our conscience which captive to the word of God .. Paragraph 68E recognizes "the rights of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience."

We believe that God is calling us to faithfulness in this matter. We are deeply saddened by the lack of support for this pastoral ministry by many within the United Methodist Church. While we respect the conscience of those who cannot join us, we believe that our own conviction, both as Christians and as United Methodist clergy, allows us no other course of action.

We will officiate at this ceremony to provide pastoral care for Jeanne Barnett, our Annual Conference Lay Leader and Ellie Charlton, a member of the Conference Board of Trustees. They have been active members of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California; chair of staff parish relations committee, administrative board chair, Stephen Minister and initiators of a highly successful after-school program for children. We consider it a privilege to co-officiate at their celebration of love and fidelity as part of an obedient ministry to Jesus Christ.