Conservative members of the United Methodist Church have expressed disappointment over a bishop's refusal to punish a clergyman who violated church rules by officiating his son's gay wedding.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree, former dean of Yale Divinity School, officiated at the same-sex wedding of his son in 2012. A complaint was filed against him and a church trial was originally scheduled for March.
Bishop Martin D. McLee of the UMC New York Conference reached an "Agreement for a Just Resolution" where no trial will be held. Further, McLee called on a cessation of all church trials for UMC clergy who had presided over gay unions.
Some Methodists, including the Rev. Tom Lambrecht of Good News Magazine, have expressed their disapproval at the resolution.
"We are deeply disappointed in the decision to negotiate a settlement that contains no consequences for Dr. Ogletree's disobedience," Lambrecht told The Christian Post. "Such a decision puts the will of individuals above the requirements of our church covenant and nullifies the will of the General Conference, which has been prayerfully and democratically arrived at and sustained for over 40 years."
Lambrecht also told CP that Bishop McLee's decision to halt church trials for UMC clergy who perform gay weddings "is a green light for clergy to disregard our church covenant and Discipline."
"The commitment sets a pattern for other bishops and annual conferences to follow, and it increases the distrust and division within the church," said Lambrecht. "This course of action by the bishop reneges on the commitment he and the entire Council of Bishops made in 2012 to continue to uphold the Discipline, despite our disagreements."
John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, told CP that "Bishop McLee is demonstrating a profound lack of integrity, breaking his own word to God and the church, and is further undermining trust in bishops throughout our denomination."
"Bishop McLee has ensured a prolonging and an intensification of our denomination's internal conflicts. No wonder his region is losing members so rapidly," said Lomperis. "Bishop McLee has effectively declared that he will run his conference as if it is independent from the rest of our global denomination."
In the "Terms of a Just Resolution in the Matter of The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree", Bishop McLee stated that he believed "Church trials produce no winners."
"Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters," said McLee. "The burdensome cost of trials combine to negate any benefit in the ongoing debate on matters relating to human sexuality."
One organization who hailed the McLee decision was Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-gay Methodist organization.
Matt Berryman, executive director of Reconciling Ministries, told CP that the Ogletree decision was something his organization "clearly wants to celebrate."
Berryman cast the decision in the context of "the season of Lent" and the triumph of the "beauty of love" over human "legalism."
"We see Bishop McLee's decision as a broad and faithful apprehension of the full scope of love's potential," said Berryman. "Beyond the legalism of fear and control and instead toward the redeeming and loving and life-giving power of God that we see in the Resurrection."