Jim Wilborne and John Romano, both 52, wed in the first same-sex ceremony at a Charlotte, N.C., United Methodist church Saturday, despite church doctrine against marriage equality, the United Methodist News Service reports.
In addition to challenging church doctrine, the wedding comes one month after North Carolina passed a law rescinding all LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the state. The wedding was also held just weeks before the denomination's General Conference, at which church bylaws will be discussed.
Both men have been members of the First United Methodist Church of Charlotte for several years. In an interview with The Charlotte Observer, they said they were pleased to have been able to wed in public at the church they had long attended.
"It was just so amazing to us to be married in our own church," said Romano, "to stay here in the Methodist Church, to have our pastors, our family, our friends around us and not do it under the radar, but do it in a way to promote change."
Since 1972, the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, which contains its official teachings, has stated that the practice of homosexuality "is incompatible with Christian teaching," reports the news service.
The church lists officiating a same-sex marriage as a "chargeable offense under church law" and "bans United Methodist churches from hosting such ceremonies," according to the news service. "Clergy convicted in church court can face a loss of clergy credentials or lesser penalties," the news service reports.
There has been previous pushback against this doctrine by members of the church and church leaders. Pastor Cynthia Meyer came out from the pulpit in January and still holds her position at her Kansas church, according to LinkedIn and the church's website. Retired bishop Melvin Talbert, who helped officiate the weekend wedding, had also officiated a wedding for another same-sex couple in 2013, reports the news service. And Rev. Frank Schaefer was removed from the ministry in 2013 for having performed his son's same-sex marriage a few years earlier, but he was reinstated the following year.
Val Rosenquist, lead pastor of the Charlotte church, told the news service that her congregation "has worked for decades to include the LGBTQ community.”
“The United Methodist Church has upheld what I consider to be incredibly discriminatory and unjust legislation for too long,” Rosenquist said.
Beginning May 10 in Portland, Ore., the denomination’s legislative body will again debate "how the denomination ministers with LGBTQ individuals," the news service notes. The conference brings church leaders from all over the world, with about one-third from African nations that outlaw homosexuality.
Those involved in the Charlotte wedding told the news service they hope it will help advance LGBT rights within the church.
Watch a video of Jim Wilborne and John Romano below.