An openly gay pastor in the United Methodist Church said he will conduct same-sex weddings despite the denomination's recent vote to maintain its view that homosexuality runs counter to the Gospel and will enforce tougher punishments for violating church discipline.
Pastor Mark Thompson, a 61-year-old father of three, is a pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan, who has lived openly as a homosexual for the past 10 years, according to WKAR.
Since the UMC Book of Discipline considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching,” Thompson said it has been hard for him to stay celibate and ignore his desire to be in a same-sex relationship.
Although he will continue to refrain from being in a romantic relationship, Thompson doesn’t believe that other Christians who are same-sex attracted should be required to live celibate lives.
Thompson said he will now perform same-sex wedding ceremonies despite the passing of the “Traditional Plan” at the special session of the UMC General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, last week.
The Traditional Plan bolstered the 12 million-member denomination’s stance against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the ordination of noncelibate same-sex attracted pastors. Included in the plan was a vow to better enforce the denomination’s rules, considering some UMC pastors are in openly gay relationships and marriages.
Despite the vow, Thompson asserted that he needs to marry same-sex couples in order to “treat people with equity.”
“I do that in every other part of my life," he told the local television station.
“When you don’t have that (a relationship) then what slowly happens [is] your spirit starts to shut down,” Thompson continued. “You just start to feel the sadness, you just start to feel the loneliness and it works away at you.”
According to WKAR, Thompson plans to retire next year and will pursue a same-sex relationship when he's done with the ministry. For now, Thompson plans to stay celibate in an attempt to change the debate in the church.
“I long to be in a deep love relationship with a man and I just have to ignore those feelings,” Thompson said, lamenting that the denomination's biblically based rules on marriage and sexuality. “It's very difficult.”
Thompson made the trip to St. Louis for the special session. He had hoped that the delegates would pass a resolution giving him the freedom to live out his life fully, according to WOODTV.com.
However, Thompson said he left early because “it got to the point where the pain was too great.”
According to Michigan Bishop David Bard, about two-thirds of American delegates favored “more inclusive” plans but were outweighed by “delegates representing Africa and Asia” who were more supportive of the Traditional Plan.
“I’ll continue to toe the line at this present time, but I do look forward to retirement,” Thompson told WOODTV.com.
Mark Doyal, the director of communications with the UMC Michigan conference, confirmed last week to WKAR that there would be “additional, stronger mandated consequences” for violating the discipline of our church under the new proposal.
However, Doyal stressed that the UMC Judicial Council hasn’t yet decided if the plan is constitutional.
Another gay pastor who traveled to the UMC special session last week is David Meredith, the pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Meredith is openly gay and married his husband and partner of 29 years, Jim Schlachter, in 2016. Because of this, Meredith has faced denominational discipline hearings since 2017, which have carried the possibility of losing his job.
Meredith told Cincinatti.com that he's not sure what the status of his job security is now that the Traditional Plan has passed. He claimed that his marriage is “honorable in the eyes of God.” He said he was “disappointed” by the vote.
“I know the people who are called United Methodist are better than the General (Conference) that met yesterday,” Meredith proclaimed. "It does not speak for the people who call themselves United Methodist."
Meredith also claimed that UMC has betrayed its identity and that the decision “launches us into a new resistance within the denomination."
Although LGBT supporters favored the “One Church Plan,” conservative delegates opposed the One Church Plan because it contradicts “the words of our Savior.” That plan would have allowed individual clergy and congregations to conduct same-sex weddings and would have allowed individual conferences to make their own decisions on the ordination of gay pastors.
“[I]n so doing, [this] deceives young persons into believing that same-gender marriage is OK with God when clearly it is not," Nancy Denardo, a delegate from the Western Pennsylvania Conference who was critical of the One Church Plan, said, according to Cincinnati. com. "There is danger to that not only to those being deceived but the deceivers as well."
Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC of Charlotte, North Carolina, told The Christian Post last week that he favored the passage of the Traditional Plan.
“[W]e believe in the beautiful picture of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture as well as church teaching for since its inception,” Davis said.