ST. CLOUD - The debate over same-sex marriage is dividing members of the clergy within the United Methodist Church.

During their annual conference in St. Cloud, about 40 Minnesota United Methodist clergy have signed a statement saying they would marry any couple who came to them, including same-sex couples.  Reverend Bruce Robbins of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis read the statement yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.  He said he initially had about a dozen of his colleagues sign the statement, by last night that number had grown to 40.  The statement was a voluntary action and not a part of the annual conference.

Meanwhile, Bishop Sally Dyck says the statement  itself does not break church rules. However, she says the church discipline does forbid same-sex marriage, and clergy who perform them could lose their conference membership, or clergy credentials.  Robbins says that won't stop him from performing the ceremonies.

About 900 voting members - half of whom are clergy - are at the conference in St. Cloud this week.

There are about 75,000 United Methodist members in Minnesota, in 365 churches.