Gay ordination ceremony before General Conference

Sue Laurie joins with others for an ordination service outside the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, ORUMNS Photo by Wes Magruder

Sue Laurie joins with others for an ordination service outside the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR

Portland, OR — The security guard spoke into his communicator, “It’s grape juice, not wine.” A man holding a filled chalice along with a small crowd all singing “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place” sought entrance to the Oregon Conference Center, the site of the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Sixty to eighty people had gathered outside the center under a statue of Martin Luther King to attend a ceremony sponsored by the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (LYNC) to ordain Susan J. Laurie. Laurie had sought ordination from the West Pennsylvania Conference over 20 years ago as an out practicing lesbian. She was denied even the first steps in the process, not even permitted to pay the initial “$50” for The Christian as Minister book that is required reading for everyone seeking ordination the The United Methodist Church.”

Laurie, now living in the Chicago area, has remained an active member of The United Methodist Church. She and others decided, “It’s Time” to take this to the next stage as part of their continued work to promote a more inclusive UMC.

Organizers of the service, presided over by the Rev. Amy Delong, scheduled it to begin at 10:32 as a protest against Judicial Council Ruling 1032 which Laurie said, “dismembered” the church. Several times she asked the crowd, “What time does the service start?” Each time the enthusiastic response, “10:32!”

So at 10:32, after having received instructions as to how to process into the convention center and what to do should there be a disruption of the service, the crowd headed for the gates to be screened.

The “no guns” rule is taken seriously here. Everything is searched and everyone is screened with a wand before entering. As the worshipers gathered inside, the singing voices came together again as they headed down the escalator and stairs to the designated area.

Communion stewards set the elements on a large rainbow-colored scarf spread upon the carpet. Everyone else crowded around for a series of readings, prayers, and song, unaccompanied by musicians but full of exquisite and passionate voices.

The crowd moved in closely to hear the service. The liturgists formed an inner circle with Laurie’s wife, Julie, placed immediately opposite her spouse. Rev. Amy DeLong stood on one side of Laurie, Jayson Dobney, who represented the laity, on the other side.

Rev. DeLong offered a reflection on her memories of Laurie when they were both students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Laurie was openly out as a lesbian there. Her courage spoke to DeLong who sought ordination without disclosing her own sexual orientation. She recalled that when Laurie openly spoke of her sexuality, another student immediately began an exorcism, calling for “Satan, come out!” About her own decision to leave the closet, DeLong said, “Closets kill, no matter how well appointed.”

The service generally followed the traditional service of ordination with special tweaks for the occasion. After the commendation by the laity, DeLong read, “And on behalf of the clergy who are at least smart enough to recognize a real pastor when we see one, we present to you Susan J. Laurie to be ordained in Christ’s holy Church.”

After answering the required questions, Laurie knelt before the officiants as they laid hands on her and those surrounding stretched out arms to lay hands on those in front of them. “Sue Laurie, take authority as an ordained pastor in the Church to preach and teach the Word of God, to administer the sacraments, and to advocate for justice always.” Multiple rainbow stoles were placed around Laurie’s shoulders as an acknowledgement of her ordination.

A rousing and tear-filled song, “Here I am, Lord” followed the Service of Holy Communion as the elements were distributed to the crowd. Jimmy Creech pronounced the benediction, ending the hour-long service.

I’m a retired Elder in the United Methodist Church, the place I finally discovered grace after a lifelong search. I love writing, gardening, reading, asking questions and making connections between political and religious practices.

My husband and I jointly claim eleven children (as he says, “mostly by mergers and acquisitions!”) and twelve grandchildren. In between our own travels, we love to have them and many others come and stay with us a bit. We see so much of the heavenly grace in the offering of earthly hospitality.

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1 Comment on "Gay ordination ceremony before General Conference"

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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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Rev Eva Johnson
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Blessings on Rev. Sue and all that she does to encourage people of all persuasions in the UMC

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