An LGBT activist group seeking to change the United Methodist Church's official stance on homosexuality is rallying support behind an Ohio pastor who may lose his clergy credentials for defying denominational rules on gay marriage.
Last year, charges were brought against the Rev. David W. Meredith after he married a man, which goes against the UMC Book of Discipline's ban on noncelibate homosexual clergy.
Reconciling Ministries Network sent out an email to supporters last week, urging them to attend the church trial proceedings for Meredith, scheduled for next month.
"Rev. David Meredith will go before the North Central Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals in two weeks. We're calling on you to be a part of the cloud of witnesses gathered to affirm inclusion and resist exclusion," wrote Alex Shanks of RMN.
The senior pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Meredith married his partner of nearly 29 years, Jim Schlachter, in May 2016.
A complaint was filed and in October 2017, Meredith was charged with three offenses: "Immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage," "Practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual," and "Disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church."
A West Ohio Conference committee dropped the first charges, but certified the disobedience charge. While Meredith could still face defrocking for the one charge, some, including Tom Lambrecht of Good News Magazine, have taken issue with the dropping of the other two.
In a column published last October, Lambrecht argued that the committee was "blatantly disregarding truth" when they did not certify the other two charges.
"The only way the church has of holding its clergy accountable to the standards they promise to live up to when they are ordained is the complaint process," wrote Lambrecht.
"Complaints can hopefully be resolved in a way that brings about reformation of behavior and the redress of harm done, while protecting the innocent. This committee decision does none of these, in fact encouraging further disobedience by other clergy in West Ohio and across the church."
According to the UMC's Book of Discipline, homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching," with noncelibate homosexuals being banned from ordination.
Over the past several years, the UMC has experienced much debate over the denomination's position against homosexuality and gay marriage.
This led to the 2016 UMC General Conference voting to create a Commission on a Way Forward to discern the official position of the denomination on LGBT issues.