Wednesday, June 18, 2008

They went to the chapel, and they got ...

At 12:10 p.m. in the chapel at All Saints Church, Pasadena, Mel White and Gary Nixon turned their 27 year partnership into married in the sight of God and the State of California at a service attended by 30-something friends and family and the regular Wednesday Noon Eucharist congregation here at All Saints Church.

All Saints Rector Ed Bacon and Senior Associate for Pastoral Care Zelda Kennedy presided, I read one of the lessons (Book of Ruth, FYI) and a great time was had by all.
Here are a couple of snaps from my not-so-fabulous digital camera and I'm posting the text of Ed's sermon below. More to follow but wanted to get this up in between the work I get paid to do here at All Saints Church in order to share with the wider community the joy, privilege and blessing we've had the chance to share here today.

(And let it NOT go unnoticed that today is the VERY 2nd Anniversary of another ground-breaking event for the church-at-large: the election on June 18, 2006 of the Rt. Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Mazel tovs all around!)

Ed Bacon signing the marriage license.

The newly married couple preparing to
serve as ministers of communion

Me with the Happy Couple at the reception following!
Mel White and Gary Nixon
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Homily preached by the Rev Ed Bacon
All Saints Church, Pasadena, California

Dear friends, we are gathered today with great joy to celebrate two of the strongest forces God ever gave us human beings to help us be fully alive and to help us express the truth that every person carries within him or her the image of God. Those forces are love and justice. It should be emphasized – love for all and justice for all.

Last month the California Supreme Court took a stand for justice for all, holding that marriage is a “basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty” “to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation.” Within a week of that legal decision, the Vestry of All Saints Church gathered and voted on a resolution* stating that All Saints Church, Pasadena will treat with equality all couples presenting themselves for the rite of marriage. This is in keeping with a now 16-year practice at All Saints of recognizing that when members of our faith community find the love of their lives and commit to live in a life-long loving relationship that we would bless those covenants regardless of sexual orientation. To use the language of resolutions of the Episcopal Church, we here at All Saints have been blessing relationships “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God."

We have believed with all our hearts that to refuse the blessing of the Church to any such relationships would be an abusive act of injustice. Dr. King, in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, challenged religious communities not to be “adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading [people] to higher levels of justice.”

So we are gathered together today refusing to be a tail-light. Rather we are here to set the light of God’s justice and love on a lamp stand before others so that they may see the wonderful works of God in bringing people together in love and fidelity so that the holy maturity and generosity that comes from loving relationships always improves the social order and fabric – strengthens the state of marriage – rather than the opposite.

After we marry Mel White and Gary Nixon, in a few minutes, we will sign their marriage license here before this altar. We will transform a thin piece of paper into a substantial sacrament of justice.

Gary and Mel informed me that there are 1,047 federal and state rights and protections that have heretofore been denied couples because they could not be married and which could not be accomplished by domestic partnership arrangements. This marriage license is a door into rights and privileges which have been denied in a discriminatory fashion.

In this act of holy matrimony this day, this church states that it will not be party to discrimination and disrespect and the violence and abuse that always accompany discrimination. For St. Paul wrote, “human standards have ceased to count in our estimate of any human being.” (1 Corinthians 5:16) What counts, rather, is whether the fruit of God’s Spirit is present: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, generosity, faith, kindness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22)

But before we get to that point in our gathering, let us say something about the deeper force, the more enduring force that has brought us here today.

The Episcopal Church in its healthiest expressions has distinguished between magic and sacraments. Rituals do not have magical powers to turn, for instance, a couple from one minute not being married into in the next minute a married couple. Yes, that will happen on the legal plane to Gary and Mel, to be sure.
But now we are thinking about the deepest level. This wedding in the end is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace that has been going on in these men’s life together for now 27 years. They were married long before this moment. In fact the vows they will offer are not the first time they have been expressed. As Gary told me, they have been living these vows for 27 years. They will simply reaffirm vows of which they have been walking witnesses for 27 years.

And these are vows that express a relationship that has given comfort, courage, and hope to thousands upon thousands of teenagers and men and women. That is the goal of every loving relationship – to use the words from the story of Ruth and Naomi – the whole town was stirred because of them. Not only the residents of Lynchburg, Virginia, where through Soulforce, Gary and Mel have bestirred people to hope and courage but throughout the world where people have known of the call to truthforce, soulforce of Gandhi’s satyagraha.

My friends, Gary and Mel, chose not to go to a secular venue for this wedding. Rather, they chose their spiritual headquarters, All Saints Church, Pasadena, where they met and where they were surrounded by a community of faith, whose members are nourished from the riches of God’s grace in the weekly Eucharist. It is this love made tangible that abides when all else fails and fades. It is this love made tangible that is the rock upon which each human being is called to build his or her soul, his or her life, his or her hope, his or her relationship.

Look upon Mel and Gary, yes, as walking witnesses of justice this day. But look upon them even more deeply, my friends, as love made tangible. Love is the strongest force in the world, the greatest of the three things that abide into eternity along with faith and hope, the only thing with the power to heal, to forgive, to persevere, and to transform this beautiful but broken world from the human race into the human family.



Adopted by the Vestry of All Saints Church, Pasadena, California on May 22, 2008

WHEREAS, our baptismal covenant commits us to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being;”

WHEREAS, Holy Scripture reveals that we are all created in God’s image and that God embraces all people as equally precious;

WHEREAS, the Vision Statement of All Saints Church, Pasadena, calls us to “embody the inclusive love of God in Christ” and our Foundational Values urge us to be “dispersed throughout this multicultural region for courageous and risk-filled work of peace and justice;”

WHEREAS, All Saints Church, Pasadena, currently blesses same-sex unions, but does not perform the rite of marriage for same-sex couples;

WHEREAS, on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a “basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty” “to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation;” and

WHEREAS, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, on June 16, 2008, the State of California will begin to license and recognize same-sex marriages;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rector, Wardens and Vestry do declare that, as of June 16, 2008, All Saints Church, Pasadena will treat all couples presenting themselves for the rite of marriage equally.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

GREAT celebration.

++KJS was elected on the 17th. I pulled my essay from a year ago. It was an amazing memory.


Hmmmm ... my "It's A Girl" button says June 18, 2006 and I just re-checked the calendar for 2006 and she was actually elected ON Father's Day ... which was Sunday, June 18th.

AND ... it was an amazing memory!

Brother David said...

Just a point of information for those of us outside the USA.

Was this at All Saints because they are members of All Saints?

Has Mel surrendered his clergy credential with the Metropolitan Community Churches?

David@Montreal said...

Thank-you for sharing Mel and Gary's wonderful day.

Once again Ed+ went right to the heart of the matter.

'We are gathered today with great joy to celebrate two of the strongest forces God ever gave us human beings to help us be fully alive and to help us express the truth that every person carries within him or her the image of God. Those forces are love and justice. It should be emphasized – love for all and justice for all.

Thank-you Ed for speaking with such power and grace.

Maveltov Mel & Gary.I'd wish you every blessing



david (7:11pm) -- Mel and Gary met here at All Saints Church 27 years ago and are frequent worshippers here when they're in Southern California. Mel talked movingly at the service about why it meant so much for them to "come full circle" and take this next step of their journey with the All Saints members of their "extended family."