After ban lifted, same-sex couples wed at Germantown

Jul 14, 2014 by and

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After a federal judge ruled Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional May 20, Germantown Mennonite Church in Philadelphia hosted two marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

Germantown Mennonite Church worships during a service earlier this year. The independent Philadelphia church is the oldest Mennonite congregation in North America. — Germantown Mennonite Church

Germantown Mennonite Church worships during a service in 2012. — Germantown Mennonite Church

Pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin said she performed a June 24 wedding for a couple in the church who had completed a covenant ceremony six years earlier.

Plans came together quickly to secure legal protections for the couple’s children.

“Oddly enough, these were my first queer weddings ever,” McGloughlin said, noting that a July 2 wedding she officiated fell on the 20th anniversary of the couple’s original covenant ceremony. “We were very clear about the difference between a wedding and a recommitment. This was not them doing this for the first time, this was them fulfilling their marriage rights that in our congregation they already had.”

The ban’s reversal, one year after the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, took many in the church by joyful surprise. A third couple in the church traveled to Vermont to get married legally in early July, having made their plans before the federal judge’s ruling.

Germantown is an independent Mennonite congregation. It was expelled from Franconia Conference of what became Mennonite Church USA in 1997 for granting church membership to gays and lesbians in covenanted relationships. In 2002, the congregation was removed from Eastern District Conference, and therefore from MC USA, after ordaining a gay man.

McGloughlin said she sometimes has to “remind folks we are not part of any conference anymore, so there is nothing anyone can do” to punish the congregation.

“I have been very intentionally public about doing these ceremonies,” she said. “This is another joyful occasion to celebrate, and there’s nothing weird or strange about this. It’s about God bringing two people together and creating a family.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to Pennsylvania, federal judges overturned bans May 19 in Oregon, June 6 in Wisconsin, June 25 in Indiana and July 1 in Kentucky. Lawsuits have been filed in every state with such a ban in place.

McGloughlin acknowledged she occupies a unique position as possibly the only Mennonite pastor in the U.S. who is both willing and able to perform a same-sex marriage without consequence of denominational censure. At this point, the church hasn’t been contacted by anyone outside the congregation seeking their own marriage ceremony.

“Not yet,” she said. “It would not surprise me, though.”

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  • Wilbur H Entz

    Here is just another excellent example of Menno-nitism and/or psychotherapy run amuck. We do not know whether to laugh, cry or do who-knows-what. My church had an uplifting sermon on Genesis 19 this past Sunday. Lot’s lot is not any different than our lot.

  • Yes, Wilbur, Lot had a lot going on, didn’t he? Like that one time when he was in the cave with his daughters, and they got him drunk so they could have sex with him and get pregnant by him (Genesis 19:33-34). I’ve always wondered what the Sunday school lesson is in that ugly little scenario. Oddly, Lot and his daughters suffered no divine repercussions for what they did there. Which I guess implies that the God of Genesis didn’t have a problem with incest, at least not in this instance. If I were God, though, I would have hurled a few lightning bolts into that cave and given those three a good Old Testament tazing. Teach them a lesson about their sexual sins, just like those Sodomites got a lesson. Of course Jesus wouldn’t have done that, him being a pacifist and all. But Yahweh was no Jesus. Yahweh was a killer and a mass murderer and a destroyer of cities inhabited by innocent women and children (Genesis 19:24-25). Anyway, Wilbur, I’m curious how your preacher made an uplifting sermon out of the incest portion of Genesis 19.

    • Scott Tyson

      Really? No divine repercussions?! The children borne from this incestuous encounter became the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites. Just because sin is not dealt with immediately does not mean there are no repercussions! And therein lies your uplifting sermon, that God is patient, and His patience is there to lead us to REPENTANCE. (Romans 2:4-5) I know that’s a dirty word to many today.

  • Scott Tyson

    McGloughlin said she sometimes has to “remind folks we are not part of any conference anymore, so there is nothing anyone can do” to punish the congregation…….McGloughlin acknowledged she occupies a unique position as possibly the only Mennonite pastor in the U.S. who is both willing and able to perform a same-sex marriage without consequence of denominational censure.

    Is McGloughlin implying that the lack of oversight/accountability that her congregation experiences due to its removal from the conference is a good thing? Having oversight and accountability is crucial to the church, and is completely Biblical. Without it, false doctrine can easily creep in. As long as the congregation is ok with the direction the pastor takes them, there is no structure in place to ensure that the church not be taken down a potentially destructive path.

    • Amy Yoder McGloughlin

      Not at all, Scott. It’s not a good thing, but it is what it is. We’ve created other forms of accountability since we were removed from the denomination. At this point, because of 1997 and 2002, we cannot be censured by the denomination for following where the spirit has led us. Perhaps the body will be one again someday, but for now we have to go where the spirit has led us.

      • Bruce Leichty

        And exactly what spirit is that? It is surely not the holy spirit of the Abba of Jesus known to us through the New Testament, falsely portrayed by (many of) today’s culturally accommodated Mennonites as a God only of easy grace and tolerance.

      • Scott Tyson

        Hi Amy! Numerous times in the New Testament we are told to test the spirit, for Scripture is clear that not every spirit is from God. We must test the spirit in light of holy Scripture, and never by the changing winds of societal opinions. I am sure you would agree with this. The problem with this issue is that Scripture is overwhelmingly clear. Not once is homosexuality spoken of in a positive light, but always the opposite.

        • Lin Garber

          Scott, “not once is homosexuality spoken of” in Scripture, positively or negatively. A few incompetent or dishonest translations of one or two verses use that word, but inaccurately, because the same-sexness of relations was not a concept or an issue in Bible times.

          However, there was a category of people who had much the same reputation then as “homosexuals” have in the minds of people who talk the way you do. They were the eunuchs, and many of them would have fit the category, especially those whom Jesus said in Matthew 19:12 were “eunuchs from birth.”

          And what did the Bible have to say about eunuchs? Well, for starters read Isaiah 56:4-5. “I will give them an everlasting name that cannot be cut off.”

  • Lynn Eastman Diener

    I think Amy is brave, and I dare say there was a lot of thought, prayer, and Spirit-seeking that went on in her own self as well as in the congregation, long before they were booted out of MC USA. I think even those who believe very differently can understand that. My hope would be that there would be respect for that. They came to a different conclusion and acted on that and there were consequences. They know this. It can be a lonely, painful thing to o be in the minority saying “this is where we feel led”.

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