In a complete contradiction of church policy, Sally Dyck, the new Bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church has called on the Illinois Legislature to pass a bill authorizing same sex marriage.
I would note there was a time when a Methodist Bishop issued a statement that unified local church members. That was in about 1990 when Bishop R. Sheldon Duecker led the fight against casino gambling in Illinois.
Dyck has decided to take a divisive, rather than unifying path in her stewardship of local Methodists.
Her statement follows:
Bishop’s statement on Illinois Marriage Equality Bill
To the Clergy and Members of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.
Today the new General Assembly of the State of Illinois is expected to discuss and soon vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. It is expected that it will pass into law. I want to express my views on it and my support of it as law.
I believe in the institution of marriage as the source of emotional and legal stability and security for families and communities.
In May I will have been married for 37 years. I have many friends who are not presently married and have never married, but I believe most of them have wanted to find a lifelong relationship to which they are committed for spiritual, physical and emotional comfort and support.
And I have friends, acquaintances and former parishioners who have been in lifelong relationships with someone but have not been able to have their relationships recognized by the state or the church because they are in a same-sex relationship. In spite of all the same pressures and stresses that heterosexual couples face, they have managed to stay faithful and true to each other, providing stability and strength not only for their families but for their communities and churches.
Marriage also provides stability and security for me in a way that I usually take for granted especially as both my husband and I grow older. We just assume that we can be with each other in the emergency room or that if, God forbid, something happens to the other that we will be provided for through our combined resources. After all, we’ve built those resources together over the last almost 37 years.
But same-sex couples can’t assume the same benefits, not even the benefit of being with each other should there be an emergency or in critical last moments to hold the other’s hand…no one should have to be getting permission to be by a loved one’s side at a time like that but that is the reality for same-sex couples.
I believe in marriage because it also is the institution that best provides for the well-being of children. I believe that children need to have parents who have the emotional and legal benefits of marriage as well as parents who are active in their lives.
In addition to the benefits of marriage that I have described above, I also believe that the State of Illinois needs to be on the forefront (if #10 of 50 is the forefront) of providing for marriage equality in order to promote economic growth. People look for places to work and start businesses that will attract as many good workers, entrepreneurs and business people as possible and a marriage equality state can provide that added edge to the competitive economic market.
While the United Methodist Church holds that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, it also holds the teaching and a long tradition (albeit a struggle every inch of the way) of civil rights. Marriage equality is a civil rights issue; it provides for all what is afforded to some.
The marriage equality act in Illinois does not bind anyone who is licensed by the state to perform marriages to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple (as no one can bind us to perform a marriage for a heterosexual couple). In fact, even though I support this legislation, I can’t perform a same-sex marriage as a United Methodist clergy person and as the bishop I can’t give permission to any other clergy to do the same. But just because I can’t provide the service of marriage to same-sex couples doesn’t mean that I should prevent people from being able to commit their lives to each other in the State of Illinois.
Therefore, I believe it is to the benefit of our families, communities and the state of Illinois for the Marriage Equality Bill to become law in our state. Not all United Methodists will agree with my belief on marriage and they are entitled to their own belief. Because I believe in marriage, it’s my belief it will be a benefit for this law to pass.
Bishop Sally Dyck
A reply from a group in the evangelical wing of the Methodist Church called Good News:
Bishop Sally Dyck has issued a public statement of support for a same-sex marriage measure in Illinois. In a statement to members of the Northern Illinois Conference, she writes: “While the United Methodist Church holds that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, it also holds the teaching and a long tradition (albeit a struggle every inch of the way) of civil rights. Marriage equality is a civil rights issue; it provides for all what is afforded to some. … Because I believe in marriage, it’s my belief it will be a benefit for this law to pass.”
The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News, issued the following statement in response to Bishop Dyck’s public campaigning for same-sex marriage.
“Good News is disappointed that Bishop Sally Dyck has chosen to advocate for the legislative approval of same-sex marriage in the state of Illinois.
“Since 2004, our church has said that we ‘support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.’
“Indeed, our definition of marriage as a covenant ‘between a man and a woman’ dates back to 1972.
“This position received a 77 percent vote at General Conference in 2004 and still represents the one issue among all the sexuality-related issues that garners the broadest support across the church.
“We respect Bishop Dyck and have worked well with her in the past in relating to the Unity Task Force of the Council of Bishops which she led.
“However, we believe that for Bishop Dyck to advocate a minority position that is at odds with the stated position of the church fosters disunity and deepens the sense of disconnect felt by many United Methodist members.
“In 2011, more than 14,000 United Methodists signed a letter to the Council of Bishops asking them to support the denomination’s position on same sex marriage. The Council issued a statement of support.
“Bishop Dyck’s advocacy flies in the face of the Council’s statement.
“We share Bishop Dyck’s commitment to ensure the protection of the civil rights of all persons.
“However, there are other ways to ensure the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons without redefining the bedrock institution of marriage.
“We see no reason why the church should allow a secular, anthropocentric, hyper-sexualized Western culture to tell us what marriage is, rather than looking to the Scriptures and, with real concern for the rights of all, maintaining what God has revealed.”
Good News has been an independent, evangelical voice within The United Methodist Church since 1967. As a renewal and reform movement, Good News has been a beacon of hope to traditional United Methodists by urging the church to be faithful to the biblically-based principles of its historic Wesleyan heritage.
In our desire to see The United Methodist Church centered on Jesus Christ, we want to see our church engaged in vital ministry, growing disciples of Jesus Christ, and transforming the world.
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The poster of this article has been a member of the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake since 1958.