A long-time lesbian activist was ordained Tuesday morning during an unofficial ceremony in a convention center corridor in protest at the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
Sue Laurie was commissioned by United Methodist clergy while being surrounded by supporters and LGBT activists. Joining Laurie were a number of liberal caucus groups advocating for changes to United Methodist teachings, ordination standards, and prohibitions on non-celibate active gay clergy. The ceremony has no official standing in the denomination, which does not permit “self-avowed, practicing” homosexuals to be ordained.
Although Laurie’s ordination has no standing, the ceremony was timed in advance of expected votes on sexuality and marriage. Votes will be held over the coming two weeks at the denomination’s Portland gathering, while LGBT activists hope to elevate the issue. The United Methodist Church has experienced increasing instances of ecclesiastical disobedience with respect to this issue in recent years.
“All are welcome here and no one is excluded for any reason…you are welcome here if you are repentant, you are welcome here if you are unrepentant,” exclaimed the Rev. Amy DeLong, one of many people who laid hands on Laurie and joined in the ceremony. DeLong, a married lesbian United Methodist clergywoman, has been in a homosexual relationship with her partner for more than 20 years.
Throughout the ceremony activists waved banners and signs denouncing the current United Methodist discipline guidelines and sang, “Remember me, Remember me.” Organizers opened the ceremony to shouts of thanks, one participant shouted “He taught me the holy art of table flipping,” which was met by an exuberant “Amen” from the crowd.
After the laying on of hands and a prayer of commission the service concluded with a presentation of the Eucharist suffused with LGBT imagery, including rainbow-colored chalices. Laurie and her partner Julie Bruno, clothed in rainbow stoles, served the communion elements to participants, activists, and LGBT supporters.
Laurie earned her Master of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1995 and met her partner at Edinboro UMC in Pennsylvania. The couple are not new to protest ceremonies and were married outside of the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.