Two members of our Belmont United Methodist Church family, Frank and Doug, were married in another state in March of this year. At that time, same gender marriages were not recognized in the state of Tennessee. Rev. Pam Hawkins, one of our clergy, informed the congregation and area church leaders that she had decided to participate in their wedding after much prayer and discernment. Frank and Doug have been in a committed relationship for over 15 years and actively involved in Belmont UMC, with their four children, for 14 years. Rev. Hawkins was informed that if she performed the wedding, a complaint would be filed with the Nashville area bishop.
Rev. Hawkins performed the marriage in March, the complaint was subsequently filed and a resolution was reached on Thursday, July 16, 2015 after several weeks of discourse and meetings. The resolution affirms that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God” and reiterates our shared call to minister to all persons without regard to their sexual orientation. The resolution further includes agreement for additional dialogue and understanding among Nashville area clergy and lay leadership.
One aspect of the resolution that will adversely affect Rev. Hawkins and her ministry at Belmont UMC is a 90-day suspension from her ministerial duties without pay but with all benefits. We will greatly miss Rev. Hawkins important ministry and witness during this time. Some Belmont UMC members who are interested in providing financial support for Rev. Hawkins during her
90-day suspension, are working together to do so.
We love and support our clergy as they respond to God’s call, recognizing that their path may lead them to be in conformity or conflict with the current official stance of the United Methodist Church on same gender marriage. Before Rev. Hawkins participated in the ceremony, the Belmont UMC administrative board expressed love and support for her, and Frank and Doug, in a vote and we united around our shared love for Belmont, our clergy, and all our members. We continue to affirm our support for Rev. Hawkins and for all of our clergy as they answer God’s call to be in ministry. We also continue to express our love and support for one another while recognizing our fears and uncertainties. We recognize that marriage is a sacred bond and the ultimate commitment between two persons. We also recognize that marriage has been defined differently at different points of time throughout human history and the history of the United Methodist Church. We recognize that United Methodists throughout the world are not of one mind with respect to same gender marriage. Likewise, we recognize that our clergy have all taken vows to heed God’s call to be in ministry with and to our faith community, including those in the LGBT community.
Belmont United Methodist Church is engaging in continued dialogue about these issues as our church strives to find ways in which we can live into our vision for nurturing all and heeding God’s call to ministry and discipleship. Our welcoming statement sums up our shared vision: Belmont UMC believes every person is of sacred worth and created in God’s image. We commit to Jesus’ example of inclusive love, care, and intentional hospitality with persons of every race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, faith story, physical or mental ability, economic status, or political perspective. We respect our diversity of opinion and expressions of faith. Therefore, as God loves us, we strive to love and serve in the name of Christ. This welcoming statement is included on our website and on each weekly worship bulletin. Belmont UMC strives to be a place where all persons find an open door, open heart, and open mind and feel strongly about being that place, as often persons in the LGBT community find closed doors when they seek a church.
To download a pdf copy of the final resolution, click here.
Click a link below for recent media coverage
Local Pastor Suspended For Officiating Same-Sex Marriage (Newschannel 5)
Because I am their pastor and they are God’s beloved children (Reconciling Ministries Network)
Pastor suspended 90 days for marrying same-sex couple (Channel 4 news)
Support for Pam Hawkins - Update
Joyfully, we want to share that the news that Belmonters and others have graciously donated sufficient funds to ensure that Pam Hawkins will maintain her normal income during her suspension. This generous outpouring has come through both direct gifts to Pam and donations to the Reconciling Ministry Network’s Clergy Defense Fund. Although most gifts came from Belmonters, donors from over 15 states also contributed. Many came with heartfelt expressions of support, both of Pam’s ministry and of Belmont UMC for our openness and willingness to support her. Reading the notes that came with the gifts was overwhelming and humbling. Thanks to all who helped with this. Once again, Belmont UMC’s generosity and witness are truly a light to the world.
by Louis and Mary Kaye Jordan
Support for Rev. Dr. Pamela Hawkins
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