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United Methodist Church Sets Date for Trial of Pastor Who Officiated Son's Gay Wedding

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By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
January 20, 2014|11:40 am

A clergyman and former dean at Yale Divinity School will be tried by the United Methodist Church later this year for officiating his son's same-sex wedding.

Last week, the church trial for The Reverend Thomas Ogletree was scheduled for March 10, reported the Associated Press. The church trial has garnered much attention due to its spotlighting of the UMC's position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

In addition to considering homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching", the UMC Book of Discipline also states that clergy cannot perform same-sex marriages.

"Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches," reads the Discipline.

In October 2012, Ogletree officiated the same-sex wedding of his son in New York State, which had legalized gay marriage the year before.

A group of clergy spearheaded by The Rev. Randall Paige of Christ Church UMC in Port Jefferson Station filed a formal complaint against Ogletree for violating the Book of Discipline. Paige and others were alerted to the actions of Ogletree because of an announcement place in the New York Times for the gay wedding.

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"I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son's request to preside at his wedding," said Ogletree in a statement.

"It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows to 'seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people' and with Methodism's historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan 'open hearts, open minds, open doors.'"

Ogletree's actions were "injurious to the church", said Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of the conservative Methodist group Good News, according to the NY Times. "And it undermines the whole covenant of accountability that we share with each other as pastors," continued Lambrecht.

When news first broke of the pending church trial, Ogletree gained a lot of support from progressive UMC groups who hope to change their denomination's official position on homosexuality.

"Recognizing the gospel's tendencies toward inclusion and grace, Ogletree has fulfilled his calling as a United Methodist clergyperson," stated the Reconciling Ministries Network last Friday. "Ogletree has courageously looked beyond the dead letter of the law only to behold life-giving Spirit and has reminded us all that faith is much more a disposition of the heart than strict adherence to a set of rules."

John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that this was not the first high-profile clergy case regarding this issue. 

"There have been high-profile cases of clergy being defrocked or suspended for blessing same-sex unions or 'being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual' – both of which are expressly forbidden by our rules," said Lomperis. "There have been other cases of dishonest clergy more or less getting away with such things. In such cases, heterodox church officials often invent extremely convoluted, silly arguments for why our rules don't actually say what they say."

Lomperis also told CP that the trial "raises the heat on all sides."

"Regardless of the church trial outcome, I expect it will make a number of people want to leave the UMC, some because of our rules affirming biblical teaching, and others because this issue is even treated as up for debate," said Lomperis. "It needs to be stressed that in our global denomination as a whole, sexual liberals are losing the debate. The last UMC General Conference saw significantly stronger support for biblical standards than the previous one."

The UMC trial of Rev. Ogletree will be held at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Conn.

 

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