Methodist ministers from around the Meteroplex and as far away as Austin attended the wedding of Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church.
Harris and Evans are members of Northaven United Methodist Church. The denomination does not allow same-sex weddings to be performed in their churches or Methodist ministers to perform those ceremonies.
The Rev. Bill McElvaney, who is retired, announced at Northaven on Jan. 15 that he would perform same-sex weddings.
On Saturday afternoon, McElvaney walked down the aisle but sat as he officiated, because he had a round of chemotherapy just days before. He sounded strong and brought the crowd of several hundred to their feet several times as he blessed the couple who has been together 53 years.
The issue of same-sex marriage is dividing the United Methodist Church and has heated up since the Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked last fall for performing his son’s wedding.
“It’s not my intent to politicize this marriage,” McElvaney said during the wedding. “But…”
With news cameras from most local stations at the church and four stories about the wedding in the Dallas Morning News, there was little doubt the wedding was political.
“Jack and George are challenging the United Methodist Church to become a fully inclusive church,” McElvaney said.
He said he wanted to correct any news reports that said he was a willing participant.
“I’m privileged to be part of it,” he said.
The Rev. Arthur Stewart, pastor of Midway Hills, said he got calls from other pastors of his denomination as news broke about the wedding at his church. He was told that what he was doing was a disgrace to the denomination. He answered that it would be a disgrace if he didn’t welcome the couple to his church. Midway Hill is a member of The Chistian Church (Disciples of Christ).
“When it comes to justice, our doors are always open,” Stewart said.
The Rev. Sid Hall is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin. He said he performed a number of same weddings at his church between 1992, when his church because a reconciling congregation, and 1996, when the United Methodist Church outlawed the practice. Since then, his church has performed no weddings, gay or straight.
Since then, he said, a number of same-sex weddings have been performed in churches around Texas, just nothing as open and public as this event.
Hall speculated what his and every other congregation would be without their LGBT members, gay music directors and organists.”
“Worship would suck,” Hall said.
He wouldn’t speculate on whether charges would be brought against McElvaney or not. Anyone within the denomination may file a complaint, he explained, and the local bishop may decide to elevate the complaint to charges.
Hall, however, thought there couldn’t be a worse case than this one for the church to use as an example — a pastor in his 80s undergoing chemotherapy celebrating the lives of a couple that’s been together longer than most straight couples.
McElvaney said he wouldn’t speculate about whether charges will be filed.
“It’s their business what they do,” McElvaney said. “And I’ll deal with it.”
At the reception, held at Northaven United Methodist Church, McElvaney had one wish for Harris and Evans.
“Continued joy, health and happiness,” he said.
Evans and Harris don’t think things will be much different now that they’re married. Harris said they’re not planning to have kids.
“Hell, he won’t even let me have a dog,” Harris said.