Current Page: Church & Ministries | Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Church Trial for United Methodist Theologian Who Officiated Gay Wedding Postponed

Church Trial for United Methodist Theologian Who Officiated Gay Wedding Postponed

A church trial for a prominent United Methodist theologian who officiated his son's same-sex wedding ceremony has been postponed.

Initially the trial for retired seminary dean the Reverend Thomas Ogletree was scheduled for March 10, but a postponement was announced Monday.

Retired Bishop S. Clifton Ives, who was slated to preside over the church trial, made the decision to delay, reported Heather Hahn and Kathy Gilbert of the United Methodist News Service.

"Ives' decision followed a joint motion by the counsel for the church, the Rev. Timothy Riss, and the counsel for Ogletree, the Rev. W. Scott Campbell," wrote Hahn and Gilbert. "In a previous pre-trial meeting, Ives - after consultation Riss and Campbell - referred the charge to a process seeking just resolution. More time is needed for this process, said a news release."

According to the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, clergy cannot perform or bless same-sex unions even in states where gay marriage is legally recognized.

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

Ogletree officiated the same-sex wedding of his son in New York State in October 2012. A group headed by The Rev. Randall Paige of Christ Church UMC of Port Jefferson Station filed a complaint against Ogletree for violating the Book of Discipline. They were alerted to Ogletree's actions because of an announcement placed in the New York Times for the gay wedding.

In January, it was announced that Ogletree's church trial was to take place at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Conn. on March 10.

Formerly dean of Yale Divinity School and Drew Theological Seminary, Ogletree defended his decision to officiate the gay wedding.

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

"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.'"

Critics, like the Institute on Religion & Democracy's United Methodist Action Director John Lomperis have argued that Ogletree's reasoning is "intellectually shallow and reflect a very sophomoric approach to Scripture."

"Obviously there are very complex emotional dynamics involved with Dr. Ogletree wanting to be compassionate towards his own son. But a basic part of parenting is understanding that not everything your son asks for is actually good for him," said Lomperis in a statement released last year.

"This is fundamentally an integrity issue. Dr. Ogletree freely chose to become a United Methodist minister and vow before God to follow the communal covenants of a global denomination in which theological revisionists now are losing ground."