Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Mark 12:31 says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."
Throughout the history of the United States, the Supreme Court has been called on to ensure equality, liberty, and justice for all people. This can be seen in the abolition of slavery, the women's movement, the civil rights movement of the 60s, and now in the fight for marriage equality.
Today, in a 5 to 4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for all people.
For decades, the United Methodist Church has debated this issue. Next year when General Conference gathers in Portland, Oregon, the decision to change, or reaffirm the church's historic position will be considered. Pastors and congregations within our annual conference hold opinions across the spectrum of this decision. But, throughout the years, the California-Nevada Conference has consistently stood for full inclusion, and equal rights, for all people in our denomination, and secular society.
In our Social Principles, United Methodists have stated our common belief around this value:
We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry 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.
This Supreme Court decision calls attention to the difference between the laws of the United States, and the policy of our church. The law does not require anyone to violate their conscience of what God has called them to do, or their theological understanding. But, if we seek to be an inclusive church that serves all of our parishioners, and all of our neighbors, we will have to consider how we treat all people equally. The heart of our call to ministry is to be pastor to the people of the congregation, and the community, we serve. May we continue to be a people of prayer, and hope, as we work towards a day of equality and inclusion for all people created in the image of God.
Alice Stokes Paul, women's rights activist and leader in getting women the right to vote says, "I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality."
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr.