A Texas congregation has voted that no couples can be married within its walls until the denomination permits same-sex weddings.
First United Methodist Church voted on September 24, with 93 per cent of the vote in favour of the temporary prohibition on wedding ceremonies.
The church's senior pastor, Taylor Fuerst, commented that he hopes the vote 'will have a uniting effect on the congegation', which includes a number of LGBTQ individuals. 'It communicates even more to our city that if you are in the LGBTQ community that you are not tolerated here, but you are embraced.'
The Book of Discipline, the document which governs the denomination, states that all individuals are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality 'is incompatible with Christian teaching.' The denomination also has a ban on same-sex unions being performed by pastors or hosted by churches.
However, as congregations are not obliged by the Book of Discipline to hold weddings, the decision by First United Methodist Church in Austin does not violate its regulations.
Davis Covin, who was a member of the church's discernment team that met for a year before the vote, said he found the vote 'incredibly validating.'
'This vote demonstrates that our members are willing to sacrifice a position of privilege in order to stand in solidarity with those who are discriminated against,' said Covin. 'I think this also serves as a great example to the children and youth in our church by showing that our members strive for social justice and equality for all God's children.'
11 United Methodist churches have now determined to not hold any wedding ceremonies unless the denomination changes its stance on same-sex unions.
Thomas Lambrecht, Vice-President of Good News, which describes itself as 'the leading evangelical witness and ministry within The United Methodist Church', sees the decisions by such churches as threatening a split within the denomination.
'These churches are determined to change The United Methodist Church's position, regardless of the convictions of a majority of our global members. We believe such efforts are ultimately self-defeating, diminish our church's capacity to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and make it more apparent that portions of our church are simply unable to live together in the same body.'
A Commission on Way Forward was launched during the United Methodist's General Conference last year to find a way to reconcile the differing positions on sexuality within its churches. It will report at the 2019 General Conference.
Members of First United Methodist Church in Austin hope that this report will permit same-sex couples to marry within United Methodist churches. With this in mind, the congregation resolved to revisit the no-weddings policy two months after the 2019 General Conference.