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Asheville minister resigns ordination over church's position on same-sex unions

Blender Ann in Asheville, NC keeps me up to date on the goings-on there, and today she emailed me some awesome news about another area minister who is standing up for same-sex unions. Rev. Howard Hanger was pastor at Jubilee! Community, a nondenominational church of about 500 people, and he chose to take a firm stand on principle. Ann:

Jubilee is a all welcoming and affirming church here in Asheville. Very large congregation. Even though the church is not technically “Methodist,” the minister, Howard Hanger, is ordained under the United Methodist faith. And as a United Methodist minister, he is officially prohibited from performing homosexual union ceremonies. Howard is currently under investigation by the United Methodist Church for disobeying that prohibition. He officiated at the union blessing of Laurey Masterton and Christine Keff. The result of this violation could mean that the United Methodist Church will disavow Howard’s ordination. He would no longer be a United Methodist minister.

This was covered in the Asheville Citizen-Times; Hanger joins Revs. Joe Hoffman and Mark Ward, who stopped performing all marriages to protest the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriages, as ministers who are publicly putting themselves out there on the side of equality.

Let every bible-beating moralist take a look at Rev. Hanger’s letter:

March 17, 2006

Committed Love

Dear Randy,

As a Minister of the Gospel you are well aware that ministers do not marry anyone. Can not marry anyone. Cannot “perform” a union blessing. What we do is to witness the marriage. Witness the love. We witness and are there as symbols of God’s grace. When we officiate at a wedding ceremony, we walk the couple through their marriage. We do not marry them. They marry each other.

I did indeed witness that union as listed in the NY Times. I officiated, I walked them through it. I was gladly there as a representative of Christ’s love. I was very clear to that couple (as I am very clear to every heterosexual couple) that I will not… cannot… marry them. Every couple I meet with – or have ever met with – know this up front.

That said, I must declare to you and to Bishop Kiesey and to anyone who cares to listen that I TRULY BELIEVE in committed love. I truly believe that as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (a man who said NOTHING about homosexuality and everything about love) we are called to affirm love WHEREVER we find it. And to offer love where it is not.

And, if given the choice of obeying my conscience and my call to God or obeying a blatantly biased and judgmental policy against the rights of God’s children, then I will wholeheartedly choose the first.

Please forward this to the Bishop, if you will, and let me know if you still want me in your ranks. I will not participate in any church trial. We had enough of those in the Middle Ages.

In God’s redeeming and forgiving love,
Howard Hanger

What a missive that was. The personal web site for Howard Hanger is here. And here’s his email.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding