Bishop Sally Dyck endorses same-sex marriage proposal in Illinois

Bishop Sally Dyck of the UMC’s Northern Illinois Conference announced her support Jan. 10 for legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Illinois.

“While the United Methodist Church holds that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” she wrote to conference members, “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.”

Bishop Dyck noted that she’s not able to perform such a ceremony, or allow clergy under her supervision to do so, because of restrictions in the UMC’s Book of Discipline, or law book.

“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,” she said.

Bishop Dyck’s statement yielded quick reaction within the UMC.

“She and other bishops, pastors and lay persons in the United Methodist Church who today support marriage equality for same sex-couples are to be congratulated rather than condemned.” said the Rev. Gil Caldwell, a retired UM pastor and longtime civil rights advocate, now living in New Jersey. “Why do we in our denomination continue to believe that exclusion of some rather than inclusion of all is an appropriate response to the inclusive love we have seen in Jesus?”

The Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial caucus within the UMC supporting gay rights, also praised Bishop Dyck.

“Reconciling Ministries Network applauds Bishop Dyck’s brave decision to support the rights of same-sex couples to get married,” said Randall Miller, interim executive director.

He added that the group wished she had also offered support for having same-sex marriage ceremonies in UM churches.

“We understand she’s trying in good faith to maintain her oaths to the United Methodist Book of Discipline,” Dr. Miller said. “We’re encouraged by her recent statements and actions.”

Good News, an unofficial caucus within the UMC that supports the church’s position on homosexuality, issued a statement expressing disappointment with Bishop Dyck. The group’s statement said in part:

“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. . . . 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.”

The UMC has, for four decades, had language in its Book of Discipline declaring that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Efforts to change that language, including at the 2012 General Conference, have all failed.

But many UM clergy have announced their support for same-sex unions, including more than 1,100 who signed pledges saying they would officiate at such ceremonies, despite church law prohibitions on that. Others in the church have urged the bishops to enforce the Book of Discipline against such clergy.

The Northern Illinois Conference petitioned the General Conference in 2011 to remove all discriminatory language about homosexuality from the Book of Discipline and to offer equal rights for all.

To date, nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

Here is Bishop Dyck’s statement in full:

To the Clergy and Members of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.

Bishop Sally Dyck

January 10, 2013

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

Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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20 Comments on "Bishop Sally Dyck endorses same-sex marriage proposal in Illinois"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Howard Buckle

And people in our denomination wonder why we are losing members, and church attendance is down. I am getting close to looking for another church. When the leader of our church can’t even follow the word of God found in the Bible.

Everytime something comes up within the United Methodist Church such as how we are to treat others and how those of us who do call ourselves United Methodists are to respond, I search the scriptures first and I also find an applicable sermon given by our founder, John Wesley. In scripture homesexuality is condemed, period! Jesus told the woman, "neither do I condemn you, but GO AND SIN NO MORE. Jesus knew what she had done and did not condem her, but He also told her not to do it anymore. That should be our response. I would also like… Read more »
It is clear that the United Methodist Book of Discipline does not support her stance. Much more importantly, the Bible is clear on its view about homosexual relations. While I believe we are called to love everyone (love the sinner and hate the sin), I do not believe to do that we have to compromise our Biblical beliefs or condone sinful behavior. If the church does not follow solid Biblical principles, it will deteriorate. It is clear that the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral and unnatural sin. Leviticus 18:22 says homosexual sex is an abomination and detestable sin. It… Read more »

Is there any wonder why the UMC is in decline? God does not bless anything that is out of His will. When will the leaders in our UMC realize that they can not usurp God's authority. Promoting and condoning sin is flagrant disobedience to God's Word and Authority. REPENT!!


When the LGBTQ folks finally get their way (and I don't doubt they will), watch how fast those preaching "contrary doctrine" are drummed out of the church.


[…] lost no time in challenging the Church’s stance in practice.  Bishop Sally Dyck issued a statement supporting civil manifestations of same-sex marriage, and Bishop Talbert began actively encouraging […]


Bishop Dyck also said “Serial relationships – whether they are heterosexual or homosexual – are a concern for me,” she said. I think they undermine the security and stability of our communities and of individuals ultimately.”

Any divorced and remarried people feel thrown under the bus by that statement? How does she feel about the itinerant ministry?

According to a study cited in the New York Times, half of existing gay marriages studied were open, consensually non exclusive, relationships.

According to Bishop Dyck's twisted logic, the UMC's biblical position on homosexuality is in opposition to civil rights. As such one can assume that civil rights is not biblical or the UMC's position is not biblical. Which is it? Of course, there is a middle option. After affirming the end goal of justice and civil rights, she then says that gay marriage is a civil rights issue. Perhaps that is the place where we should have the discussion? To what extent should the UMC publicly endorse a practice that is contrary to God's Word and our Discipline? For that matter,… Read more »
Blessed are those of us old enough to remember The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church before condemnation of non-heterosexual sons and daughters of Creator God was made official policy !!!!!! Surely, no one wants to "go back" to marriage as found in the Bible !! Daughters bought and sold, men having multiple wives and concubines, men being able to divorce their wives by simply announcing it. "Marriage" has changed over the ages. Did you know that the first instance of a religious marriage ceremony in the Christian church, as found in historical records in The Vatican,… Read more »
If Good News truly “share[d] Bishop Dyck’s commitment to ensure the protection of the civil rights of all persons” it would be in the forefront of organizations advocating “ways to ensure the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons without redefining the bedrock institution of marriage.” Based on its track record, Good News has no such commitment. On the contrary, its unyielding commitment to keeping the civil definition of “marriage” tied to its religious definition shows Good News to be solidly in the camp of those who do not care that legal benefits—like the tax treatment of estates—and privileges—“No one… Read more »
I think that some of the issues are getting muddied in this debate, Wanting to defend the Biblical definition of marriage and the Biblical standards regarding homosexuality does not mean we are not sensitive to fairness for those who are gay and homosexual. There are already many avenues to address some of those concerns. Legal instruments such as powers of attorneys for property and healthcare, along with wills and estate planning documents can designate rights to parties. Hospitals have HIPPA documents which grant information and access to people who may not be legally related. There are laws which address discrimination.… Read more »
"Oh surely he wouldn't, said the serpent". As we look to our past we can all find injustices to God's people by God's people and yet as I look to the discussion I have to wonder why? Why are we trying to change the Discipline of a church that stands on a tradition of scripture? I am afraid that we a treading on thin ice. I feel that I can give in to the desires for legalized marriage between same sex couples as they need representation in all ways concerning couples. I desire that these couples also be represented in… Read more »
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