Dear Bishop Webb:
Hello our names are Jami and Diana Breedlove Crouch. We are members at St. Paul's UMC in Ithaca where we have attended since December 2003 when we discovered the Basics Brochure in the hallway while waiting to attend a community choir concert. After reading that ALL people were accepted in worship we began to attend and joined the church in April of 2004.
Diana and I were raised in the Assembly of God faith, me in Texas, and Diana in Groton NY. Both of us had similar experiences where we heard that we were an abomination to God and we would never be allowed in heaven but would experience hell for all eternity.
After growing up in this environment I was asked to leave the church and Diana was subjected to exorcisms leaving our ability to believe in a loving, accepting God almost impossible. Yet our hearts continued to search for a relationship with God and for a church home that would accept us as we were and not reject us.
In 2001 we had a Commitment Ceremony performed by a UCC pastor. At St. Paul's we experienced full inclusion and love from our church family and in 2008 we married in California all alone with a justice of the peace and our youngest daughter on the phone at the church where she was attending choir practice.
When we returned we received lots of hugs and congratulations from our church family. We felt embraced and loved.
Diana and I are Co-Chairs of the Reconciling ministry at our church and work on the Upper NY Reconciling Annual Conference team.
We attended 2012 General Conference and our hearts were broken when the exclusive language was not removed from the Discipline. At that time we wondered if we should leave the UMC but because of our home church and the friends in our Upper New York Conference we have stayed.
We met you when you came to Auburn when you toured Upper New York. We asked you that night to hear reconciling members.
We also organized the "witness" at the 2013 Annual Conference in the hallway outside of the ordination ceremony.
Diana and I were touched when you came to the line of people standing with the "witness" and shook each person's hand and gave us a blessing.
At St. Paul’s we have about ten same gender couples that have been married outside of the church in the ten years that we have been members. I am the wedding coordinator for our church and this is probably equivalent to the amount of heterosexual couples that have married in the same time period. Of course you know what the difference is.
All of the same gender couples are members at the church supporting the whole church with their time, talent and finances but not all of the heterosexual couples are members of the church and yet they can get married in our church building and with our pastors officiating
Bishop Webb we are praying for you and the decisions that you have before you. We feel confident that you are praying for direction knowing that pastors have begun to follow their conscience and officiate at same gender weddings.
The Book of Discipline is a book written by men and women. Rules and regulations that we as Christians are called to follow to the best of our ability. Are we called to follow the Discipline more than we follow the Bible?
Are we to love the Discipline more than our neighbor? Are we to follow the Discipline and turn our brothers and sisters away from the Gospel because we refuse them the blessing of their unions?
Are we to ask our pastors to lie when they are gay or lesbian? Are we compromising our pastor's when they feel called to officiate at same gender weddings but don't because of fear of losing their livelihood or worst yet conduct the marriage ceremony but feel like they have compromised the Discipline?
Please join other Bishops and support the Biblical Obedience movement and allow all pastors to follow their conscience and in doing so embrace all of your members in Upper New York congregations that desire a deeper relationship with God and desire full inclusion within the United Methodist Church.
I used to think that it wasn't a big deal that I couldn't marry Diana legally. It wasn't an option. Then I became married and realized it felt different for it to be legal.
A few weeks ago I was the wedding hostess at our church for a young couple in our church. Since I knew them I sat in the service and with tears flowing down my face I realized it makes a difference that same gender couples are denied the ability to stand before God, family and friends to proclaim their love and to enjoy the full inclusion of the church.
Last week, in Washington D.C. we processed in a church with other married couples and received a blessing in the church by a Bishop and realized that it made a difference. We need God in our lives and need to honor God with our whole lives including our marriages.
Thanks for listening.
Jami and Diana Breedlove Crouch