A pastor and a bishop in North Carolina have married a gay couple in an act of “civil disobedience”. The wedding was kept secret to stop “people having time to organise a protest”, and even had to hire security to keep demonstrators out.
John Romano and Jim Wilborne, both 52, were married in Charlotte North Carolina yesterday. Wilborne has attended the church for two decades.
Bishop Melvin Talbert and Pastor Val Rosenquist agreed to marry the couple, despite knowing that they could be defrocked by the United Methodist Church (UMC).
The bishop, who has a history of making a stand against injustice, was arrested alongside Martin Luther King Jr during the Atlanta sit-ins in 1960. He previously caused a controversy by offering to officiate a same-sex wedding in Alabama.
Saturday’s wedding ceremony comes as the Church prepares to debate a proposed plan to repeal a ban on clergy members performing same-sex weddings. The Bishop told Buzzfeed News the church’s policies currently banning clergy from performing same-sex weddings “are immoral, unjust, and oppressive, and they no longer deserve our loyalty and support.”
He described the act as “civil disobedience”, saying he knew he could lose his role as bishop over the act.
Adding: “I have to make a choice between my church and God, and I am choosing God. Discrimination is discrimination no matter where it is. It was race discrimination then, and it is discrimination based on sexual orientation now.”
He added: “It’s time to make a stand. I am willing to face whatever consequences I encounter. I am totally at peace with this decision.”
The United Methodist Church has 7 million members, and is the largest protestant denomination in the US.