A retired pastor could face a canonical trial after it was found out that he officiated his son's wedding to his partner.
Thomas Ogletree, a Frederick Marquand Professor Emeritus of Theological Ethics and one of the authors of United Methodist's Book of Discipline, has been called out by leading Methodist pastors for willfully disregarding church law and confusing the principals for which it stands by choosing which laws to follow.
"If everyone can pick and choose the laws they don't particularly like and choose to violate them then you have a situation of pandemonium," Bishop Martin McLee of the New York Conference told The New York Times.
Ogletree claims he was not randomly picking which laws to choose, but choosing to defy a law that he felt was in conflict with one of the UMC's core teachings.
"I would not casually violate any rule in the Discipline. I would do it only if I was convinced that upholding it would be a violation of our core Methodist teachings- open minds, open doors and even the acceptance of people without regard to sexual orientation," Ogletree told The Christian Post during an interview.
Ogletree is a retired pastor who did not spend much time behind the pulpit preaching the gospel once he began his academic career in earnest. He was one of the principal drafters of the current United Methodist Disciplinary statement on doctrinal standards and knows firsthand the message of acceptance and inclusion the United Methodist's followers adhere to.
Ogletree understands that the UMC is an inclusive entity with open minds and hearts while at the same time also holding firm to the belief that "homosexual practices are incompatible with Christian teaching." However, he still disagrees that the Bible states homosexuality is a sin, despite the majority of his denomination and Christians worldwide believing so.
"The text that people cite and say that scripture condemns homosexual practices is ... not talking about sexual orientation," Ogletree said. He did admit, though, that "scripture does not explicitly recognize anything like sexual orientation."
Ogletree says that the Discipline has been at the center of internal controversy in the past. Previous divisions included advocating for a segregated church and the denial of the ordination of women- those positions were defeated, though.
"I am a strong advocate for supporting the Discipline but that does not mean there are not any problematic features contained within it. This is not the first time we faced a fundamental conflict that showed different views from what our core teachings are," Ogletree said.
There are many including Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of the Methodist group Good News, who feel that such an act only further confuses followers and creates a more divisive church.
"Reverend [Thomas W.] Ogletree is acting in a way that is injurious to the church, because it fosters confusion in the church about what we stand for," Lambrecht told The New York Times. "And it undermines the whole covenant of accountability that we share with each other as pastors."