On his wedding day, Jordan Harris awoke excited.
“It’s here!” he told himself, thinking back to the day he met his fiancé, Nathaniel Devarie, six years ago at a Philadelphia fruit market, and the breathless call to his roommate afterward: “I just met the man I’m going to marry!”
Harris had about an hour of joy, he said, before his thoughts returned to the potential repercussions of his marriage to Devarie: the loss of his job, his health insurance, his faith community, and his home.
“It wasn’t until I was actually driving around and had that sort of quiet that I started thinking what happens if, come January, I’m removed from my church?” said Harris, pastor at Connexion, an East Somerville church that describes itself as a reimagined United Methodist faith community.
As a Methodist minister entering a same-sex union, Harris faces potential suspension or even expulsion from the ministry, since the United Methodist Church’s General Conference voted in February to reaffirm its 1972 policy that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Delegates to the conference also voted to more strictly enforce penalties for clergy who perform same-sex marriages or are themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Proponents of the policy say it brings the church into line with biblical teachings defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Methodist leaders on both sides say the controversy could bring about a schism in the church.
Because of the new policy, beginning Jan. 1, it will be possible for anyone — not just members of their congregation, as in the past — to bring allegations to the church that a clergy member has performed a same-sex wedding or is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
LGBTQ clergy members in the Methodist Church could be defrocked and fired, losing jobs, benefits, and housing.
But Sara Garrard, the pastor of Old West Church in Boston, who identifies as queer, said she’s not frightened.
“They don’t deserve my fear. They don’t deserve my anger,” she said of conservatives within the church who oppose ordination of LGBQT clergy. “I actually have a lot of hope for the future. . . . I believe that things can be redeemed from what dumpster fires we’ve turned them into.”
Harris said LGBTQ clergy members have always faced an extra level of scrutiny around their personal lives, and he doesn’t worry about his future in the church “in most moments, and then every now and then, you do have those dark moments.”
Garrard considered it a coup to host the Harris-Devarie wedding at Old West last weekend, she said, and was moved to see that it was a large ceremony attended by dozens of supportive clergy members — both those who are LGBTQ and supporters of the community — and by both grooms’ families.
“What really made it magical, I thought, was having all these people that came to visit us would help out, and really did the work with us,” Devarie, 29, said. “That was really nice to see everyone come together. I felt so humbled.”
At the altar, Harris, 28, wore a simple gray suit, and Devarie, an artist, wore an elaborate purple topcoat that he designed and made over the course of a year, encrusted with thousands of hand-stitched beads — about 25 pounds’ worth — and trailed by a long train.
Looking at the crowd, which included friends from elementary school and high school he hadn’t seen in years, Devarie became emotional.
“I could not stop crying once I got on the altar,” he recalled later. “I think it was just seeing how loved we were and how many people showed up to support us.”
It was a moment, Devarie said, that he never could have imagined as a boy growing up in an Evangelical household in conservative Eastern Pennsylvania, where he went through three months of “conversion therapy” in high school to try to make him straight.
As Harris stood before about 200 family members, friends, faith leaders, congregants, and other supporters, looking into the tearful eyes of the man he loves, he was thinking, like any groom, of his excitement, his fear that he’d forget his vows — his fear he’d forget to breathe.
“I didn’t think about the negative stuff until maybe the next day,” he said later. “The vast majority of the day . . . was nothing but excitement and nervousness.”