Lesbian Pastors Get Married, Risk Their Careers for Love

Two female pastors in Seattle have put everything on the line for their love for one another.

On Dec. 7, Tibbetts United Methodist Church hosted a wedding, just as they done many other times. The ceremony was simple, but well attended — it was standing room only. Yet despite the event's popularity, none of the guests snapped any photos of the nuptials for Facebook or Instagram.

The couple said they wanted privacy.

Rev. Dr. Joanne Brown and Christie Newbill are both pastors at Tibbetts United Methodist Church and Woodland Park United Methodist Church, respectively. On that day earlier this month, the two devoted religious leaders were joined together in matrimony.

"I could feel kind of a leap when she came into the room, a delight to see her," Christie remembered. As peers, Joanne and Christie's romance started with friendship.

"I was like, 'Oh my goodness. I think I feel that too,'" Joanne laughed.

But with their wedding, they could face serious consequences within the church. While both churches are "reconciling congregations," which affirms anyone regardless of sexual orientation, and the union is legal under Washington's new law, there is still a chance they could face disciplinary action.

The marriage violates the Methodist Book of Discipline, which "excludes noncelibate gay and lesbian people from ordination and prohibits same-sex unions. Their supervisor, United Methodist Seattle District Superintendent Patricia Simpson performed the ceremony. She also could face consequences from the church, if it comes to that:

No disciplinary action will ensue unless someone files a complaint with the Bishop, who would begin a process that could lead to a dismissal of the complaint, a mediated resolution,or a church trial.

"We don't do these things casually," Simpson told Seattle's King 5.

There are other incidents of Methodist clergy around the country performing and blessing gay unions. Rev. Frank Schaefer of Philadelphia, who was suspended last month for presiding over his son's same-sex marriage, recently defied an order to resign his church credentials. Schaefer has said he plans to be a vocal advocate for gay rights.

For Brown and Newbill, their union is about love, not activism.

"I wasn't doing this to make a point. I wasn't doing this to thumb my nose at the United Methodist Church," said Brown. "I was doing this because I loved this woman."