The female pastors of two Seattle churches are celebrating their newly-wed life together. They're trying not to focus on the possibility that their marriage could end their careers.
Tibbets United Methodist Church in West Seattle filled with ministers, children and regular church-goers December 7. Though the wedding ceremony left standing room only, none of the guests took any pictures.
The couple wanted privacy, not politics.
"I wasn't doing this to make a point. I wasn't doing this to thumb my nose at the United Methodist Church," explained Rev. Dr. Joanne Brown. "I was doing this because I loved this woman."
Joanne, the Tibbetts United Methodist Church Pastor, married Christie Newbill, who serves as the pastor of Woodland Park United Methodist Church. Both are "reconciling congregations," which means they affirm anyone regardless of sexual orientation. Each congregation has also agreed to perform same-gender unions under Washington's new law.
"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.
The two knew their decision to marry would violate the Methodist Book of Discipline. It not only prohibits "self-avowed practicing" gay ministers, it also prohibits same-gender unions.
They asked their supervisor to perform the ceremony.
"We don't do these things casually," said United Methodist Seattle District Superintendent Patricia Simpson.
All three women face the possibility of disciplinary action. Simpson calls her choice to officiate a prayerful and thoughtful one.
"For a couple who wants to be married in their church. I believe it was a faithful decision," she said. "I also hope the day will come soon when the United Methodist Church will let go of this prohibition."
Though no one keeps record, church officials believe Christie and Joanne are a first for the Methodist church, two pastors who are well-studied in what they've risked.
"A full range of consequences up to and leading to losing my ordination which would pain me to no end," Joanne said.
Though the ceremony was the first same-gender union Simpson ever officiated under Washington's new laws, there are more than 1,000 active and retired United Methodist clergy across the country who have signed pledges of their willingness to officiate same-gender unions. Many continue to officiate the ceremonies despite the rules.
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.
Instead of fixating on the reactions which might follow, the women are focusing on leading their congregations through the busy Christmas season.
"Living my life true to myself and to God, and authentically with everyone else, I think that's the most important thing," Christie said.
Joanne even says the Methodist church deserves her, because of what it taught her, the reason she won't resign.
"That the Gospel is a gospel of radical love and liberation," she said. "That was the main teaching of Jesus."
It's a lesson, Joanne says, that gives her no choice but to love, even though she says loving Christie really isn't a choice at all.
"I need to breathe. It's what I need to live. I would never for a nanosecond change what I have done," she said.