RR and SS "felt blessed" when they found a chapel at a United Methodist camp that seemed perfect for their commitment service. They called to reserve the chapel for a private "spiritual union" on Sunday, February 1, 1998. The camp asked if it was a same gender service. RR says, "After I responded that it was a lesbian couple, she said it was the policy of The United Methodist Church not to allow same sex unions in their churches."
On January 29, 1998, RR e-mailed the Rev. Judy WestLee, coordinator of CORNET's Valentine's Day Celebration of Love and Commitment. She was hurt and shocked: "I feel like a second class person to be rejected by the church where I was raised. We are good people who have contributed to society and practiced our spiritual beliefs."
She also said, "...SS and I are very spiritual people who believe in God and love God. I was taken to the Methodist church almost every Sunday when I was young. ...Most of my life has involved the church and spirituality... Today, I am appalled that I have been denied access to God's house."
Just that morning, before knowing she and SS would be rejected, RR e-mailed a dear friend saying:
"SS and I picked out rings yesterday at a jewelry store. They are gold bands with some small diamond chips that are alike - except mine has a wider band. They are very beautiful.
"It once was written -'For every loss there is a gain...... and for every gain there is a loss' - which has been apparent in my life. The past few years have entailed many losses and hard times -- of which I grew from -- and now the blessing of this relationship.
"We are having our Spiritual Union this coming Sunday, February 1st.... We will do readings of our own choice to each other (not previously disclosed to each other). The readings and our own compositions will comprise material consisting of: spiritual oriented, love oriented and commitment oriented.
"On the altar, which has a round sky-light above it, we will place my antique candelabra with the angel on it (a gift from my Mother). It holds three white candles -- which represent us + God. We are both are very spiritual and very romantic.... How did I ever get so lucky....
"The minute we went into this chapel and stood under the skylight - We knew this was our place. It has a very spiritual feeling. We want God to bless our relationship and to be spiritually bonded. We were out exploring a few Saturdays ago and SS just happened to drive down this road and there it was! We were both raised Methodist -- such a coincidence -- the kismet of the [United] Methodist chapel....
As it turns out, there was no "kismet." RR concluded her January 29 letter to Judy WestLee:
"I was taught that God loves ALL people. I remember learning how angry Jesus was when people weren't welcomed into the house and love of God....
"Signed in much sadness,
RR and SS"
This week, RR wrote another letter to CORNET giving CORNET permission to share the couple's story and reporting:
"With just a few days to go before Feb. 1st -- with neither of us too anxious to try for another chapel -- as being denied is not good for the soul, we decided to have our spiritual union in our living room. God was with us just the same. On Sunday afternoon, February 1, 1998, we read passages to each other from the Bible on: Love (1 Corinthians 13), Giving (2 Corinthians 9), Fidelity (Hebrews 13), Trials (James 1) and Unity (Romans 15). We knelt and prayed to ask for God's blessings and strength in our covenant. It was a beautiful sunny day. We exchanged rings; which were symbolic of our vows."
At one point the camp asked RR if there would be a clergyperson involved in their spiritual union. RR told her, "no ... .that in attendance there would only be the three of us."
The camp said to RR, "I thought you said no minister."
She replied, "There is no minister - just SS, myself and God."
When the camp rejected the couple's request, it justified its action because of a statement in the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."
CORNET, a program of Affirmation, believes this sentence is not just and conflicts with another statement in the Social Principles about being "in ministry for and with all persons." During February 1998, several United Methodist churches held Valentine's Day services celebrating the love and commitment of all couples in protest of the Social Principles. Another event is planned for 1999.
Affirmation is an activist caucus of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangendered people organized to speak for themselves. Membership to Affirmation is open to all persons who support the caucus's goals.Contact: The Rev. Judy WestLee, Valentine's Day Coordinator