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Our Little Secret: Iowa UMC Bishop and Leadership Permit Same Sex Weddings (UMC Amid Chaos Part V)

Aunt Harriet,

I wish I didn’t have to bring this up. I know your views on same sex weddings in the church but I thought you should know what happened.

In a BLATENT POWER GRAB, the Iowa UMC Bishop and her District Superintendents have taken it upon themselves to change the theology, Scriptural truths and official United Methodist policy in allowing ALL Iowa churches to perform same gender weddings. They made this decision in direct violation of the Book of Discipline, the United Methodist rule book. It violates the United Methodist Church’s official position on same sex marriage. In addition, the Bishop and her appointive cabinet violated their ordination vows and covenant with the church by not adhering to the Discipline without the approval of the General Conference (the ONLY body allowed to make such changes).

The decision was issued in an online announcement on December 3rd, 2021 and was effective January 1st, 2022. It is interesting the Bishop and her District Superintendents published their intentions and made them effective a short 27 days later. Why didn’t they wait until the annual conference in June, 6 months later?

A notice of the changes in theology, Scriptural truths and UMC doctrine was emailed in the official Iowa Annual Conference weekly email blast, “Weekly 360º — November 26, 2021”. It was found right after the “Leading from the Heart” article under “Iowa News”.

The title of the changes, “Leading Now and Into the Future” does not lend itself to the issuance of a new policy on same gender weddings. One may have easily skimmed over the article thinking it was an organizational vision statement, not a noteworthy theological statement. On the other hand, it appears someone at the conference office must have gotten the title of the statement incorrect as the Iowa UMC leadership referred to their own statement as, "this vision of ministry and human sexuality"

The entirety of the change in theology, Scriptural truths and UMC doctrine and policy can be found buried on the website when you click “About”, then “Bishop’s Office”, then it’ll be the 15th item out of 18 items on the Bishop’s Office page, right after “History of the Bishop’s Crest”.

If you clicked on “What We Believe” (where an important policy and theological statement would be found), you will be taken to the official UMC website ( which contains the Disciplinary policy agreed upon at General Conference, stating it is the UMC policy that same gender marriages are not performed.

Maybe they don’t want those who attend to be aware of the change in the Iowa United Methodist Church position. It could be their “little secret” hidden away in an obscure place with an unassuming title.

Aunt Harriet, I realize the Bishop and her District Superintendents have stated in their vision of “Leading Now and into the Future”:

“…If the church leadership decides that hosting same gender weddings is not a faithful expression of the ministry of the congregation, then no same gender weddings will be held at the church…”

Implied in the above statement is the following:

  1. IF your congregation does ministry, and…

  2. IF your congregation is faithful…

  3. THEN since your congregation does faithful expressions of ministry, you should also want to allow same gender weddings in your church.

  4. AND if you don’t allow same gender weddings at your church, your congregation will not be seen as doing faithful expressions of ministry.

It is also specified in THEIR VISION for YOUR CHURCH, regardless of what your congregation decides, your pastor has the right and ability to perform same gender marriages as they see fit. The only restriction is they must obtain your congregation’s approval to perform same sex marriages in your building. The pastor may perform the weddings in any other venue, regardless of your permission.

The conference leadership also detailed in their edict “This vision provides a home for everyone…” Well, it doesn’t. In fact, it admittedly states it is their way or the highway:

So, the issue is not if your church agrees or disagrees with same sex weddings. The real issue, according to the Bishop and her District Superintendents, is if your church can or cannot get onboard with the Iowa UMC leadership’s vision developed without your permission or contribution, while overstepping their authority in doing so. If you cannot, you may leave. Short and simple.

In essence, it appears the leadership is encouraging people to do what is right in their own eyes and not wait for permission—except when it’s contrary to the vision they have for the future of their church.

I will write later to answer the following:

  1. Where is Jesus or any Scriptural references in such an important document as the vision for the future of the churches in Iowa who call themselves United Methodist?

  2. Where is John Wesley’s theology in respect to this new vision?

  3. What does the word “United” mean in United Methodism?

  4. What is involved in the “gracious exit” the Bishop and her Superintendents speak of?

Aunt Harriet, I remain remorseful I am forced to relay this news to you. I only ask you share this with your fellow congregants. I also would encourage you and your church to see and read this new vision yourselves. You may view it here:

Many times, I have referred to the Bishop and her District Superintendents or the Iowa UMC Leadership. I would like to clarify who they are:

Bishop: Laurie Haller

District Superintendents:

Rev. Bill Poland

Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck

Rev. Dr. Moody Colorado

Rev. Doug Cue

Rev. Melissa Drake

Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon

Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson

Rev. Ron Carlson

**** UPDATE****

On June 4th, 2022 it appears the Iowa leadership decided to put a link to the change in "Vision" on their home page, I continue to have the opinion the title of the change in theology, Scriptural truths, UMC doctrine and policy ("Leading Now and Into the Future") remains vague enough for most to overlook.


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