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Okla. Methodists Organize to Support Gay Marriage

Friday Mar 23, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - In conservative Oklahoma, a group of United Methodists are signing a statement in support of marriage equality ahead of an April global policy conference of the church, which prohibits gay marriage.

Retired Oklahoma City minister Jim Gragg is collecting signatures and said 62 clergy and 203 members have signed the statement calling for "full equality and inclusion to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the Church."

There are about 300,000 Methodists in the state, according to the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Gragg said the church has historically been inclusive and that doctrines and attitudes against LGBT people contradict the vows ministers take to minister to all people.

"We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of God, and our blessings, to any prepared couple in our ministry context desiring Christian marriage," the statement says. "We are convinced by the witness of God's love for all people, and are compelled by scripture, tradition, reason and experience to act."

The statement is 1 of 13 among conferences of the United Methodist Church across the country. Members of the church's New York conference circulated a statement asking clergy to commit "to marrying all people, both gay and straight, who seek the blessing of the church, without bias or discrimination" and congregations to "refuse to discriminate in the sacraments and rituals provided to our members and pledge the full and equal use of our facilities as we welcome and celebrate equally all couples and the families they may choose to create."

Suzanne Davis, associate pastor of New Haven United Methodist Church in Tulsa, told the Associated Press that she signed the statement because she believes gay people who want to make a commitment to each other in the church should be able to do that and be recognized as important.

Later, a receptionist at the church said Davis told her she did not want to talk to reporters about the issue.

A Florida native, Davis moved to Tulsa in 1981 to do hospice work and joined the New Haven staff in 2008. She and her husband have three children and two grandchildren.

The Oklahoma statement will be presented to delegates of the church's worldwide conference in Tampa, Fla. The conference meets every four years, during which changes can be made in church law.

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