Jim Wilborne and John Romano were married on Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C. in an act of civil disobedience against the church that may cause the minster to be de-frocked.
The ceremony may immediately jeopardize the pastoral credentials of Rev. Rosenquist because the current anti-LGBTQ policy of The United Methodist Church (UMC) pointedly instructs clergy not to preside at same-sex weddings, and that no same-sex wedding can take place in a UMC sanctuary.
The wedding also takes place just weeks from The UMC’s General Conference — the policy-making body of The UMC that meets every four years — where the issues of LGBTQ inclusion, clergy and same-sex weddings will be reconsidered. Wilborne and Romano — who have been together for six years — chose to hold their wedding at this time and partner with Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) on the It’s Time campaign to play their part in moving the institutional church towards a more welcoming position.
“This church has been my home for almost 20 years, and has become John’s church family too. It is a blessing to be able to have the same opportunity as every other member of our congregation in celebrating our marriage here,” said Wilborne. “We were at the point where we considered leaving the church because of the hurt of discrimination. We’re grateful to First UMC and RMN for showing us that acceptance is possible within our faith.”
In the last two years, the number of Reconciling United Methodists (RUMs) in the Southeastern jurisdiction, which includes North Carolina, has increased 35 percent. In fact, North Carolina is the third largest state in terms of recent growth of RUMs, which are churches and communities that welcome LGBTQ individuals and families.
“The United Methodist Church is where we learn and live out God’s love. My ministry requires — and all who are baptized in The UMC promise — to seek justice for all people. It grieves, angers and saddens me that the institution I love and through which I serve God has institutionalized injustice and oppression through its policies,” said Rev. Rosenquist. “I’m presiding over this ceremony in faithful response to my ordination. It’s time for this couple, it’s time for this church, it’s time for society: it’s time for justice and to celebrate the love shared by these two men, the church and God.”
Bishop Talbert, who received an official complaint for officiating a same sex wedding in 2013 and who remains the only Bishop to preside over a same-sex wedding in The UMC, was part of the original special commission at General Conference 1972 that stated LGBTQ individuals are people of sacred worth and deserve human and civil rights.
“I learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself during my time as an activist in the Civil Rights movement that hate won’t bring about change, but love will,” said Bishop Talbert. “I decided to participate in this wedding because this isn’t the time to give up. It’s time to keep pushing for what is right.”
“We are so proud and grateful for the leadership of Rev. Rosenquist, for the commitment of this couple and the ongoing leadership of Bishop Talbert,” said Matt Berryman, Executive Director of RMN. “This General Conference will face a growing surge of support for LGBTQ inclusion, from the pews and from its ministry. It’s Time to change and reward love, commitment and faith, and to welcome everyone, wherever they live and worship, into The UMC.”