John M. Becker

Methodist Bishop Drops Gay Wedding Trial; Calls on Church to Stop

Filed By John M. Becker | March 10, 2014 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: church trials, gay marriage, marriage equality, Martin McLee, Methodists, same-sex marriage, Thomas Ogletree, United Methodist Church

bishop-martin-mclee-methodists.jpgNew York Bishop Martin McLee of the United Methodist Church (right) announced at a press conference this morning that he's unconditionally dropping the case against Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, an 80-year-old minister who was charged by the church in January for officiating at his son's same-sex wedding in 2012.

Bishop McLee then went further, appealing to the United Methodist Church to stop prosecuting pastors for officiating at the weddings of LGBT couples. "I call for and commit to cessation of trials," Bishop McLee said, marking the first time in church history that a sitting bishop has categorically pledged to stop prosecutions.

Rev. Ogletree, a renowned theologian and former dean of the Yale Divinity School, responded:

"I am grateful that Bishop McLee has withdrawn this case and the church is no longer prosecuting me for an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love. But I am even more grateful that he is vowing not to prosecute others who have been likewise faithful in ministry to LGBTQ people. May our bishop's commitment to cease such prosecutions be the beginning of the end of the United Methodist Church's misguided era of discriminating against LGBTQ people."

According to the pro-LGBT group Methodists in New Directions, Bishop McLee's decision means that Rev. Ogletree will not be required to admit "wrongdoing" or promise not to perform same-sex weddings in the future in order to remain in good standing. Dr. Dorothee Benz -- the group's chair and a spokesperson for Rev. Ogletree -- puts it all in context:

"This resolution completely vindicates Tom. While it is good that Tom will not have to stand trial for saying 'yes' when his son asked 'Dad, will you do my wedding?' it is important to remember that trials are not the problem in the United Methodist Church, they are merely the symptom. The problem is the wholesale condemnation of gays and lesbians as 'incompatible with Christian teaching' and the systematic discrimination against us and those who would dare to minister to us.

"The declaration that he will no longer prosecute pastors like Tom who refuse to deny ministry to LGBTQ people is a bold act of leadership for our bishop, whose longstanding support herewith takes a new step that mirrors our own refusal to follow discriminatory laws."

Congratulations to Rev. Dr. Ogletree -- and kudos to Bishop McLee for doing the right thing and urging the greater United Methodist Church to do so as well.

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