A group of Northern California Methodist churches are spearheading a movement to defy current doctrine and allow same-sex marriages to be performed on their property, KPIX-TV reported on Thursday.
"I think we're up to 35 now, and we have our first one in Nevada," group spokesperson Vicki Gaugler told KPIX. "I hope I'll be busy updating the list of churches after this news breaks."
The participating churches have signed a "declaration of inclusion" explaining their position. The statement was authored by members of the Elk Grove, Fair Oaks and St. Park's United churches, all based out of Sacramento, and cites the United Methodist Book of Discipline, arguing in part, "All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status or sexual orientation are entitled to have their human and civil rights honored." Gaugier added that individual clergy members will have the option of performing any same-sex marriages at their churches.
A separate statement on the group's website urges other congregations to join them, saying, "We must unshackle ourselves from rules reflecting the cultures where same sex marriages are forbidden. We can no longer, in good conscience, deny use of our property to our members and friends at the precious time of marriage requiring them to go somewhere else other than a United Methodist Church to receive ministry."
However, the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline states that it considers homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching," and forbids ministers from performing same-sex marriages or allowing them to be held on church grounds. Changing the policy would require approval from a majority of delegates at the church's next confrence, scheduled to be held in Portland, Oregon in 2016.
According to the Sacramento Bee, church membership is at about 12 million members worldwide, with more than 30 percent of them hailing from more socially-conservative regions like Africa and the Philippines.
[Image: "Priest Reading From The Holy Bible," via Shutterstock]