DALLAS — A Dallas pastor is taking a controversial stand. He's decided to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The Rev. Bill McElvaney is a retired Methodist pastor who led the congregation at Northaven United Methodist Church for 40 years. Northaven welcomes openly gay members, and counts many among its North Dallas congregation.
Despite well-publicized cases of Methodist ministers being punished for performing gay marriages, McElvaney says he's willing to risk it for equality.
"I think we need to take this position," he said. "It is long overdue in the United Methodist Church."
A mural outside the sanctuary of Northaven says it welcomes people of all sexual orientation. It represents more than just hospitality — the church has worked with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for years.
On Sunday, McElvaney announced he would buck church teachings to officiate at gay marriage ceremonies.
The Methodist Church's official rules say homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, but McElvaney says his views are based on the more inclusive teachings of Jesus that never once singled out homosexuality.
He said supporting gay marriage is both a biblical and a moral imperative.
"This is a justice matter, but it's not just an issue," McElvaney said. "It's about people; it's about people being loved and accepted, and about the church being what it's called to be."
While McElvaney's views are consistent with ministers across the country who have married gay couples, he is taking a huge career risk. He could lose his pension... or even his credentials.
News 8 contacted theology experts at Southern Methodist University who said: "It is understood to be a clear violation of the Book of Discipline, and subjects the clergyperson who conducts such ceremonies to the possibility of having a formal complaint filed against her or him."
"I'm too old to be worried about things like that," said McElvaney with a chuckle.
Any ceremony he performs can't be held inside Northaven, but McElvaney said there other clergy members willing to come out from behind the pulpit and take the same stand by offering use of their churches, which include the Rev. Arthur Stewart at Midway Hills Christian Church and the Rev. Christine Ng at Central Congregational Church.
"A lot of these good people were baptized in the United Methodist Church, and the congregations promised to care for them and to love them," McElvaney said.
McElvaney said it is a strong display of faith that so many LGBT members continue to be active within the church.
"They do so in spite of the fact that they are not treated as whole persons with the remarkable gifts that they give to the church, and in spite of discrimination against them," he said.
McElvaney added that some couples have expressed interest in having him marry them, but so far he has no weddings planned.
We contacted the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church about McElvaney's declaration. A spokesperson said they have "no comment."
Any marriage that McElvaney officiates would be largely symbolic in Texas, because the state does not recognize same-sex marriages.