Queer Methodist clergy were saddened by the vote at the general conference. (United Methodist General Conference/facebook)
A Methodist church in Texas is to hold a mass ceremony celebrating marriage and reaffirming wedding vows of all married couples, including same-sex couples, who want to attend.
The ceremony will be held just three days before the denomination’s clampdown on LGBT+ people in the church.
At the United Methodist Church’s general conference in February this year, about 53 percent of delegates to the conference voted in favour of what members call the “Traditional Plan”.
The plan reinforces church doctrine prohibiting same-sex marriage and the ordination of queer clergy. The plan also strengthens penalties for clergy who perform same-sex weddings, according to RNS.
The First United Methodist Church of Dallas has opposed the vote since it happened, and senior pastor Andy Stoker said his “heart [was] broken” after the vote.
The “Tradition Plan” will come into force on January 1, so Stoker decided to hold a special service on December 29 which he told The Dallas Morning News is “about seeing and recognising all congregation members, to help us really see one another”.
The ceremony has been named a “covenantal celebration of holy marriage”, and Stoker has invited neighbouring churches to also get involved in the mass renewal of wedding vows with pastors giving blessings to all of the couples.
Stoker added: “These are the people we are in covenant community with whom we are living this life with and the people we call sisters, brothers, siblings in Christ.”
The ceremony is the first of the steps to include LGBT+ people that Stoker has committed to following the general conference ruling.
In the new year, the First United Methodist Church of Dallas will offer increased education on sexuality and the Bible, make an annual commitment to take part in the local Pride party, and will “create opportunities for the congregation to connect, including marriage and family enrichment workshops”.
Earlier this year, a group of teenagers refused to take part in a United Methodist Church confirmation because of the denomination’s attitude towards LGBT+ Christians.
Eight teens from Nebraska stood up during a Confirmation Sunday service in April and announced they were not going to join the church because its policies towards LGBT+ members are “immoral”.