By: Pastor Mary Beth

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcomed here.

This saying has been a part of the United Church of Christ’s identity and marketing message since 2004 when a campaign was launched indicating our greater church’s commitment to “extravagant welcome which continues to historically re-shape our understanding of the Christian faith and proclamation.”

On Monday, April 28, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, arguing that North Carolina’s marriage laws limit a minister’s choices and restrict the freedoms of religion and expressive association guaranteed in the First Amendment – and are therefore unconstitutional.  Currently any minister, who performs a marriage ceremony for any couple who has not obtained a license (such a license may not be issued to same-gender couples in North Carolina), commits a Class 1 misdemeanor.  This act is then punishable by up to 120 days in jail and/or probation and community service in addition to the possibility of the minister being sued for performing such a ceremony.

Here in Iowa, same-gender marriage became legal following a unanimous decision of the Iowa Supreme Court on April 3, 2009.  Marriage licenses became available later that same month for same-gender couples.  Iowa became the fourth state to legalize same-gender marriage.

As stated in our current by-laws, Hope United Church of Christ proclaims that our purpose “shall be to worship God, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate the Sacraments; to realize Christian fellowship and unity within this church and the Church Universal; to render loving service toward humankind; and to strive for righteousness, justice and peace.”

I am grateful to be a part of and to serve in this denomination and this church as both have strived to be a prophetic voice in the areas of justice and peace so that no matter who one is or where one is in life’s journey, all are welcomed to come and know the gift of God’s love that is for all people.