Complaint Filed Against 36 Pennsylvania United Methodist Clergy Who Blessed Gay Wedding

Arch Street United Methodist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Arch Street United Methodist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | (Photo: Courtesy Arch Street UMC)

A confidential complaint has been filed against 36 United Methodist Church clergy who blessed a gay wedding in defiance of the official rules of the Protestant denomination.

The complaint was recently filed against clergy belonging to the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference for a same-sex marriage they officiated last November.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, head of the Conference, said in a statement given to The Christian Post by her office that the complaint will be processed according to the Book of Discipline.

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"We are following the Disciplinary process as outlined in paragraph 363 of the 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church and are prayerful that a just resolution can be achieved," stated Johnson.

"As United Methodists we are committed to seeking peace and reconciliation as a model for society. May it be so."

Last year, over 30 clergy in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference met at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia to agree to bless a gay wedding as an act of protest against the denomination's official ban on same-sex marriage.

In an earlier interview with CP, the Rev. David Brown of Arch Street UMC explained that the action was in part to be in solidarity with Pennsylvania pastor Frank Schaefer, who was at the time on trial for officiating his gay son's wedding.

"It is difficult to say what the United Methodist Church's official reaction will be to the actions of those in support intend to take. We wouldn't characterize any action as 'punishment,'" said Brown last October.

"However, we remain in prayer that our actions will help to move the agenda along toward the United Methodist church's denominational support of this important community."

On November 9, a Saturday, 36 UMC clergy along with nine clergy from other faiths presided over a same-sex wedding ceremony of two members of Arch Street UMC.

"We acted as a matter of ecclesiastical conscience in the center of a compelling community context," said the clergy group in a statement released last November.

"We believe that this act of pastoral care reflects the love of God and honors and abides by The Bible as well as the Discipline of the United Methodist Church as a whole, if not in part."

According to John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, the confidential complaint e "was pursued only as a last resort after months of inaction by Bishop Johnson, who did not issue any clear public statement repudiating the covenant-breaking actions of the Philadelphia 36 as entirely inappropriate, did not take initiative in having complaints filed, and did not suspend or otherwise punish any of the offenders."

"The denominational accountability process will be slow. But at least it is now moving along," wrote Lomperis on the IRD's website.

"They will not be intimidated by or roll over for the destructive, covenant-breaking, any-means-necessary tactics of the Philadelphia 36. And neither will we."

When queried by CP for comment on the complaint, Brown of Arch Street declined to comment, stating that he had been advised to direct all queries to the bishop's office.

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