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San Francisco UM Disobedience Count Rises To Eight Homosexual Marriages Performed By UM Pastor


Many S.F. churches voice support
Don Lattin, Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, February 19, 2004
2004 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback | FAQ
URL: sfgate.com/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/02/19/MNGTF53E1P25.DTL  

City Hall workers are not the only officiants keeping busy these days with same-sex marriages.

The Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in San Francisco, has provided God's blessing to eight couples who were issued civil marriage licenses since the great wedding march to City Hall began last Thursday.

"We are in a whole new world, and the church better catch up,'' Oliveto said.
Most of Oliveto's weddings have been in and around City Hall, but Sunday she presided over the union of Dan Johnson and Bill Hinson -- which she said is the first legal gay marriage to take place inside a Methodist church sanctuary.

"This may make some United Methodists angry, but anyone who knows the location of our ministry knows that I acted faithfully,'' said Oliveto, whose 170-member Noe Valley congregation is about half gay, half straight.

National church law in Oliveto's 8-million-member Protestant denomination specifically forbids holy union ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

Her actions are likely to prompt a formal complaint to Northern California Methodist Bishop Beverly Shamana, which would begin a long, bureaucratic process that could result in Oliveto losing her ministerial credentials.

Shamana, who has dodged questions about gay marriage since her election as bishop nearly four years ago, was on "renewal leave'' and unavailable for comment until March.
But she did release a written statement Wednesday that took no clear position on the controversial issue.

"At this time ... as people of faith we are not of one mind on issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons,'' said Shamana, adding that church laws make "diverse statements about homosexuality in the church.''

Clergy from six religious traditions -- Episcopalian, Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist, Unitarian and Methodist -- stood by Oliveto on Wednesday at a news conference at Bethany church to support the week of same-sex weddings.

"The time is long overdue for gay and lesbian people to have the support and protection of the law for their faithful relationships and their families, '' said the Rev. Alan Jones, the dean of Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral. "Gays and lesbians are our friends and colleagues. They are us. It's time to honor and celebrate all those who seek to strengthen the human family.''

Leaders of St. Francis Lutheran Church, which was expelled from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1990 for hiring two openly lesbian pastors, have invited all couples recently married at City Hall to go for a blessing at their church in the Castro at 11 a.m. Sunday.

"We want queer couples and their friends and families to know that there are Christians who celebrate these marriages and a God who blesses them," said Jane Moyer, congregation vice president.

The Reverends Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart, the lesbian couple whose leadership led to the congregation's ejection from the national church, were among the 2,600 couples married at City Hall over Valentine's Day weekend.

Of course, not all San Francisco Protestants are jumping on the gay marriage bandwagon.
The Rev. P.T. Mammen, president of the San Francisco Evangelical Association, said his reading of the Bible clearly prohibits the sexual union of homosexuals and unmarried heterosexuals.

"When we violate God's principles, we reap the consequences,'' said Mammen, a minister with the Church of the Nazarene. "No civil authority is above God's law.''

Last week, the spiritual leader of what is by far the largest church in San Francisco, Roman Catholic Archbishop William Levada, had a similar response to Mayor Gavin Newsom's actions.

"Marriage is a relationship defined by nature, a reality which takes its origin in creation itself,'' Levada said. "Society does not create marriages.''

E-mail the writers at dlattin@sfchronicle.com and srubenstein@sfchronicle.com.
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Many San Francisco Religious Leaders Come Out in Support of Same Sex Marriages
Source: kcbs
Publication date: 2004-02-18

(KCBS) - As gay and lesbian couples continue to line up outside San Francisco City Hall in hopes of coming away newlyweds, members of the city's religious community are coming out in support of the unions.

KCBS reporter Holly Quan spoke to several San Francisco Pastors and Rabbis who said it was important for them to step up and give their blessings so that newlyweds and city leaders know they do have spiritual support.

Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Temple Emanu-El said no one has the right to judge or deny anyone. "These people are members of my congregation. I have no right to deny, nobody has any right to deny a member of their congregation a life cycle event based on their gender," Mintz said.

"I think the reality is that there are many faith leaders who always have been in support of gay and lesbian marriage, and there are many in this city who are not," she said. "The buttons are getting pushed of the clergy who up to this point have not taken a stance. Now their parishioners, their congregants are lining up at City Hall. They're getting the stamp on their marriage certificate from the city government, and they want to know from their faith community, why haven't you been supportive up to this point."

"I think that's why it's so important for faith leaders to come forward today, those that are supportive and say our faith community does support this. We have for many years, and we will continue to be supportive of gay and lesbian marriage no matter what happens with the courts," said Mintz.

Pastor Karen Oliveto married a gay couple at Bethany United Methodist Church over the weekend.

"The religious right is too often framing the debate," she said. "We're really clear that what's happening at city hall is good and holy and in line with traditional family values. When relationships are strengthened and love is deepened, that can only be a good and holy thing and good for all of society."

Oliveto could be disciplined for marrying Bill Henson married Dan Johnson in the church. The two have been partners for 12 years.

But she said, "there have been no plagues of locusts or frogs. No one has turned into a pillar of salt. The only thing that's happened is that love has been celebrated and families have been strengthened through the institution of marriage."

Henson told KCBS, "we have a right to come to a church that we are members of and active in and get married before our congregation, the people that we love."

Other churches that have come out in support of San Francisco's gay marriages include Grace Cathedral, Glide United Methodist, Dolores Street Baptist and St. Francis Lutheran Churches. The city's religious leaders all appealed to other Bay Area churches to come out in support of gay marriage.

One pastor said it is impossible to lead until you stick your neck out.

(updated 12:45pm, gcb)
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Bethany has been featured on the local news channels 2,3,4,5, and 7, and now on CNN.
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Contacts:Bruce Pettit, 415-550-0932; Brudunpet@aol.com
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, 415-647-8393; BethanyUMC@aol.com

February 15, 2004

First Gay Marriage in a United Methodist Church
Dan Johnson and Bill Hinson became the first gay couple ever married in the sanctuary of a United Methodist Church on Sunday [Feb. 15]. The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, at the church she has served for 12 years -- Bethany UMC in San Francisco -- during the regular morning worship.

Johnson and Hinson, partners for 12 years and members of Bethany, said they could have chosen to be married in San Francisco City Hall, but wanted a church wedding. Marriages of gay and lesbians couples were declared legal in San Francisco by Mayor Gavin Newsom last week.

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Contacts:Bruce Pettit, 415-550-0932; Brudunpet@aol.com
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, 415-647-8393; BethanyUMC@aol.com

UM Pastor Weds Gay/Lesbian Couples at SF City Hall
San Francisco -- Feb. 13, 2004
By Bruce Pettit

Karen Oliveto, pastor of Bethany UMC in San Francisco, presided over five marriage ceremonies in San Francisco City Hall in two days as part of Mayor Gavin Newsom's decree that to deny gays and lesbians the opportunity to marry is discriminatory.

Rev. Oliveto led vows for Michael Eaton and his partner Sean Higgins on Thursday [Feb. 12] and for Gloria Soliz and her partner Julie Williamson on Friday morning [Feb. 13]. Both couples are longtime attendees of Bethany. On Friday afternoon she married Connie Adachi and Judy Kriege, long time friends from Epworth UMC in Berkeley. On Saturday, Valentine's Day, she will marry at least one more couple from Bethany.

All couples she is marrying in these few days are ones with whom she has had a previous pastoral relationship.She declined to marry other couples at City Hall who were simply looking for any clergy person to wed them.

Oliveto signed all the newly minted marriage certficates, that had removed references to bride and groom, and merely listed two "applicants."

Opponents of gay marriage filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court Friday to halt the proceedings with an injunction, which could be issued on Tuesday [Feb. 17]. No one knows the future implications. But none of the couples, nor Oliveto, hesitated to respond to Newsom's spontaneous invitation to perform the ceremonies before they might be stopped. The United Methodist Church officially has a ban on holy unions, but none on marriages -- which Newsom declared these to be.

Oliveto, in her weekly e-mail message to her parishioners, wrote Thursday night: "Today was a historic day in our city, as more than 150 gay and lesbian couples were legally married. As your pastor, I had the privilege of officiating at the marriage of Michael Eaton and Sean Higgins. It was one of the most moving experiences of my ministry. I have presided over countless holy unions, and have treated them with the same solemnity and respect that I would any straight wedding. But to be able to say the words, 'You are now legally wed' was a powerful thing! As politicians try to find a compromise in civil unions, it was glaringly evident to me today that there is no such thing as 'separate but equal'--the rite--and rights--of marriage must be extended to all loving, committed couples."

Before Thursday's surprising invitation, Bethany was already planning to invite all couples to its service Sunday [Feb. 15] to renew their vows of love and commitment at the church in the city's Noe Valley neighborhood. Bethany was the fourth-declared reconciling congregation in the denomination 20 years ago.

"I feel very proud and honored," said Eaton, "to have a pastor who is courageous enough to serve the pastoral needs of all her congregation -- no matter what risks that may entail."

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Link to older article...In 1999, The Washington Post ran an article about UMC ministers' mass public blessing of Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton, a same-sex couple in their sixties.

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