Leading Now - Process for Discernment of Wedding Policy

 Process for Discernment on Changing a Local Church’s Wedding Policy 

For the Iowa Annual Conference 

Updated 4.13.22 

The purpose of this document is to outline a process of discernment for congregations that desire to change their current stance on what weddings will be allowed in their church building. To be clear, NO church is required to change its wedding policy or take a vote of any kind on its wedding policy. There is also no deadline to implement a policy. If a church does nothing, the current position (no same-gender weddings in the church building) will remain in effect. 

Our hope is this process will prevent a winner-loser mindset, a small body making a decision without mutual discernment with the congregation, and will promote a collaborative and prayerful process. 

If a congregation desires to reconsider its wedding policy to allow same-gender weddings within its church building, the following process is to be followed 

For churches with a traditional Church/Administrative Council structure: 

  • STEP 1 - The Church Council needs a preliminary vote to consider changing its position. This preliminary vote is not a vote to change the policy, merely a vote to consider moving forward with discussing a policy change. Some congregations are not healthy enough or are unwilling to have difficult conversations. 
  • STEP 2 – If the motion passes to consider changing the wedding policy, the Council and SPPRC, or a team named by this group, shall explore the topic with the entire congregation by hosting a series of small group conversations. A guide has been published by Discipleship Ministries. This guide can be found at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/courageous-conversations-about-human-sexuality​
  • STEP 3 - Following those conversations, the SPPRC and Ad Council will take an unofficial straw poll of the congregation, and will make a recommendation to the Church Council to: 1)change the policy; 2) not change the policy; 3) table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. 
  • STEP 4 - Following those conversations, the SPPRC will speak with the pastor, who will also make recommendation to the Church Council to: 1 )change the policy; 2) not change the policy; 3) table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. Part of that conversation should include what steps need to happen if the congregation chooses a path that is not in alignment with the pastor’s conscience. The SPPRC and pastor should notify their DS if there are appointment considerations. 
  • STEP 5 - After receiving the recommendation from SPPRC, and the pastor, the Church Council will vote to change the policy, not change the policy, or table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. To be clear, the council does not need to accept the SPPRC, or the pastors, recommendation, only to consider it. 
  • STEP 6 - If the Church Council votes to change the policy, the Council will name a team of three people to draft a policy that will be presented to the council for approval. If ad council is evenly split on this issue you contact your DS for discernment. 
  • STEP 7 - The decision to change the wedding policy rests with the Church Council. After following the process outlined here, the Church Council may call a congregational meeting for the purposes of polling the congregation. This unofficial poll would not be a binding vote, but would be designed to give the board the information needed to act or not on changing the policy. 

Keep in mind the policy of the Iowa Annual Conference allows for church and pastor choice on this issue. This means each pastor will decide if they are, or are not, willing to perform same-gender weddings. If a pastor is serving a church that decides to not change its policy (which by default means it will not host same-gender weddings) that pastor could choose to conduct those weddings off-site. A pastor serving a church that votes to change its policy, but cannot preside at same-gender weddings, will take advantage of our connectional system and invite a United Methodist colleague to preside. 

For Churches with a Single/One Board or Simplified Structure: 

  • STEP 1 - The One Board needs a preliminary vote to consider changing its position. This preliminary vote is not a vote to change the policy, merely a vote to consider moving forward with discussing a policy change. Some congregations are not healthy enough or are unwilling to have difficult conversations. 
  •  STEP 2 – If the motion passes to consider changing the wedding policy, the One Board and/or a team named by this group, shall explore the topic with the entire congregation by hosting a series of small group conversations. A guide has been published by Discipleship Ministries. This guide can be found at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/courageous-conversations-about-human-sexuality
  • STEP 3 - Following those conversations, the team responsible for leading the discussions within the congregation will take an unofficial straw poll of the congregation and will make a recommendation to the One Board to: 1)change the policy; 2) not change the policy; 3) table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. 
  • STEP 4 - Following those conversations, the One board will speak with the pastor, who will also make recommendation to: 1) change the policy; 2) not change the policy; 3) table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. Part of that conversation should be what might happen if the congregation chooses a path against the pastor’s conscience. The SPPRC board and pastor should notify their DS if there are appointment considerations. 
  • STEP 5 - After receiving the recommendation from the team responsible for leading the discussions within the congregation, the One Board will vote to 1) change the policy, 2) not change the policy, or 3) table the recommendation for further prayer and discernment. To be clear, the One Board does not need to accept the recommendation, only consider it. 
  •  STEP 6 - If the One Board votes to change the policy, the Board will name a team of three people to draft a policy that will be presented to the One Board for approval. If the board/ad council is evenly split on this issue you contact your DS for discernment. 
  • STEP 7 - The decision to change the wedding policy rests with the One Board. After following the process outlined here, the One Board may vote to change its policy. If the board feels it does not have enough information or support to decide, it may call a congregational meeting for the purposes of polling the congregation. This unofficial poll would not be a binding vote, but would be designed to give the board the information needed to act or not on changing the policy.