Jon Powers, Marriage Equality, and the UMC

Rev. Jon Powers, chaplain at Ohio Wesleyan University, released the following message, which I share with you via Facebook:

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

This is a confidential and personal missive to you, which you may want to delete (and if you do, I will totally understand, and you need not ever tell me!) I am sending this to you individually, rather than as a group, because I want to honor your individual selectivity to receive this and respond, or not, as you wish.

Here’s the situation: I am in the midst of an historic battle within the United Methodist Church on the issue of my right and responsibility, as a United Methodist minister/ university chaplain, to officiate at a sacred Christian service of marriage for a gay or lesbian couple who have expressed their intention and readiness to be so joined in a covenant of Christian marriage. I, together with over 1,000 of my United Methodist clergy colleagues, have recently signed a commitment to perform such marriages, and have forwarded our individually signed commitments to do so to the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church. In response to this action, 54 prominent UMC pastors (read: socially conservative leaders from very large-member UMC churches, mostly in the south) have written a letter to the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church to demand that the UMC Bishops “enforce (UMC) church law against clergy who have pledged to conduct same-sex unions.”

I am clearly, calmly, and serenely in the middle of all this: I signed the commitment this past summer. Yet even prior to that, last Fall 2010, I performed, not a “civil union,” but a full-scale United Methodist Wedding for two Ohio Wesleyan University alumna, together with about 150 of their closest family and friends – parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, grand-parents, OWU friends, and professional colleagues – and that wedding was photographically celebrated in a subsequent edition of the OWU Magazine.

On this coming Sunday evening, 7:00 p.m., October 9, 2011, at Asbury United Methodist Church, 55 Lincoln Avenue, Delaware, Ohio, I will be the guest preacher for the local Delaware Christian Gay-Straight Alliance in Delaware, Ohio. The title of my sermon will be “My Methodist Manifesto: How the Gospel of Jesus Christ Compels Me to Bless Same-Sex Couple Marriages.”

I invite you to join me in a variety of ways; please let me know if you can be present, and if any of the following roles might be something you might like to do to be present with me in this moment:

• Simply be present
• Participate in the liturgical aspects of the service as one who
o Reads a scripture
o Offers a prayer

If, on the other hand, you cannot be present with us in person for this event, I fervently bid your thoughts and prayers next Sunday night, as we participate in this moment of commitment and celebration.

Jon Powers

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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6 Responses to Jon Powers, Marriage Equality, and the UMC

  1. Patrick Mahoney says:

    You will be in our thoughts and prayers. We so very much appreciate you and your commitment to equality and fairness, especially as a Christian minister. You are a blessing and a real encouragement. God bless you!


  2. Fred Conwell says:

    Two people are to pledge their mutual love and ask God to bless that commitment. The clergy/church is there as witness to this special occasion. Where is there a problem; is it a sinful situation? I realize that Jesus defines ALL sin as lack of love (Matt. 22:36-40). So who is unloved or hurt in a homosexual relationship? All other sins (adultery, divorce, theft, lying) have victims. Neither Jesus, His prophets nor the gospel writers mention homosexuality, let alone condemn this love sin. Throw out any New Testament references as lies: the word “homosexual” wasn’t coined until about 1865.


  3. bosquenorse says:

    I can sympathize to some extent with Mr Powers who thinks he is doing right on this issue. I am a United Methodist layman who is a primarily closeted homosexual by choice. I have no problems at all with civil unions, but I have absolutely no idea why anyone would want to make a spectacal of themselves as this Ohio couple did. Why not have enough common respect for the tradition of a holy marriage ceremony between one man and one woman? No wonder these gays are not accepted when they cause such a ruckus and draw unwanted and unneeded attention to themselves. Have enough self-esteem and live your life in a more privately simple ceremony and not call it a holy marriage. There is just not any sense at all in carrying on like this and United Methodist ministers performing these ceremonies.

    There are plenty enough problems in trying to get the church to change idiotic statement in the official rules concerning homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching. This is total ignorance and plain stupidity, which is a disgrace to members of the United Methodist Church. Why in the hell does the UMC continue to uphold this unreasonable stance?


    • Ron Goetz says:

      In any movement there are always people whose natural role is to be out in front bringing attention to the cause. These people demonstrate, or they may break laws. They sit in diners in order to be arrested; they block abortion clinics in order to be arrested; they burn their draft cards in order to be arrested. Such people include people as Rosa Parks, Carrie Nation, and Andrea Dworkin.

      And there are are always people who feel uncomfortable with them taking such public stands. Their activities are often called “counterproductive” and “premature.” There is always resistance and criticism in movement work from people who aren’t comfortable with the limelight, aren’t comfortable with attention focused on themselves. And that’s okay. That’s normal, it’s to be expected because it is always that way. Not everyone is called to do the same work in the same way.

      My son is gay, and attempted suicide several times after he came out and was rejected by the two evangelical groups he was active in–one of which was a UMC with a stridently anti-homosexual pastor. I’m grateful that Chaplain Jon Powers and the gay couple are willing to go out on a limb for people like my son. I’m grateful for people like Rev. Molly Vetter.

      The reason for going big and public with this sort of stuff? People don’t change until it becomes too painful to remain the same, which goes triple for institutions.

      I understand your discomfort with Jon Powers and the gay couple getting married this weekend. That’s how you were made. You are not an extrovert on any personality tests, right? And no matter how broadminded and accepting any of us are, it’s highly unusual for any of us to feel really comfortable with people who have a radically different personality.


  4. Ed Rogosky says:


    In all honesty, I am most curious about the homosexual movement’s interest in codifying things in law. Laws almost always have unexpcted side effects. In many ways, I think that the law would be deleterious to what they say they wish to accomplish. Afterall, marriage laws today really do little more than protect children, as was their intent. Marriage is always an ageement between two people to stay together. I am curious then what the agenda might be for those who wish to “legalize” homosexual marriage.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Ed, the word “justice” is by definition a legal concept, and deals with laws. Christians in general cannot avoid dealing with the reality of justice, with all its vagaries and unintended consequences, and hope to remain faithful to the testimony of scripture.

      Abolishing slavery, ending child labor, ending segregation, legalizing collective bargaining and strikes, allowing mixed-race couples to marry–all of these were moral-legal problems, and they all became codified in law.

      Yes, one thing leads to another, sometimes by chance, sometimes by design. I know you are “in all honesty…most curious” about these things, but you also seem like you might have an idea of what you think the “homosexual agenda” is. Feel free to share.


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