An amendment to our Church Wedding Policy to approve the use of the facilities of Ann Arbor First United Methodist Church for all ceremonies of Christian marriage

October 4, 2021

Dear Friends,

As our church has begun to gather together this fall – at in-person worship services, in virtual gatherings, and connecting via hybrid technology – our pastors have invited us to “Reimagine Church.” The Leadership Council and other lay working groups have been collaborating to discern the next faithful steps for us as a congregation and church community. You have seen and heard about our new Church Statement. You have heard Rev. Nancy Lynn and Rev. Tim Kobler preach in the recent sermon series leading us to explore what it means to be an anti-racist congregation, to address community needs with work toward systemic change, and to refine and strengthen our inclusion of LGBTQA+ siblings.

This letter shares a change in policy adopted by the Leadership Council (the Council) at its last meeting, with the intent of being more inclusive and welcoming. Specifically, the Council adopted the following motion:

To amend our Church Wedding Policy to approve the use of the facilities of Ann Arbor First United Methodist Church for ceremonies of Christian marriage for all couples, regardless of gender.

For nearly 200 years, our FUMC clergy have united thousands of couples in our sacred spaces and our congregations have launched many happy families with love and best wishes. In keeping with our legacy and our commitment to unconditional love, we wanted to let you know that the Council unanimously approved a change that now allows our church buildings to be used for ceremonies of Christian marriage for all couples, regardless of gender. The unanimous vote conveys the leadership’s position that now is the time to fully embrace this part of our future.

The Council takes this action while recognizing that it means moving ahead of the denomination as a whole. Allowing same-gender weddings in our building puts FUMC Ann Arbor on a path to violating the current United Methodist Book of Discipline. Our Senior Pastor, Nancy Lynn, and Deacon, Shonagh Taruza, support this decision. As you may remember, our clergy have historically been courageous and outspoken in this area, including facing charges for allowing the congregation to vote to adopt our original Welcome Statement in 2007.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, and our Bishop in particular, has recognized that same-gender marriage is an issue of conscience that is highly likely to divide the denomination. They have indicated that church legal action on this topic will be “held in abeyance” and not acted on for the current time. There is reason to hope that the global United Methodist Church, once its decision-making body is able to meet, will reconfigure its rules in ways that align with our new policy. The twice-postponed General Conference is now set for September 2022.

We believe this latest action is in keeping with the well-established position of our church to welcome as well as affirm all unconditionally.

Finally, we and the entire Council wish to express our deep gratitude to Pastor Nancy Lynn who has helped shape our life together in so many beautiful ways, always with careful judgment for balancing the needs of a diverse congregation. She has expressed her personal conviction that now is the right time for this change. We cannot fully appreciate the emotions and courage involved in this step for a clergyperson who has been devoted to her denomination and continues to work so hard for its benefit. We recognize that Nancy is putting herself on the line for us, and we are humbled.

With Hope in Christ,

Sun Chao and Elaine Shaw, Co-Chairs, Leadership Council

On behalf of all Council members: Amy Bridges, Ted Brokaw, Anne Cox, John Dahl, Moni Dressler, Leanne Gee, Kathy Macdonald, Owen Merritt, Wilson Merritt, Damani Partridge, Nancy Quay, Keith Radak, Naomi Kaczor, Rick Miller, Marilee Woodworth.