Practicing homosexual Cincinnati pastor David Meredith is once again at risk of losing his job because of his gay marriage after a regional United Methodist Church appeals court on Monday ordered the West Ohio Committee on Investigation to rehear the case to determine if he is fit for ministry.
UMC's North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals in Indianapolis, which oversees UMC congregations in the Upper Midwest, remanded Meredith's case back to the West Ohio Conference after it had previously dropped the charges against him last year, according to RTV6.
The 61-year-old Meredith, who has pastored a "reconciling congregation" at Clifton United Methodist Church as an openly gay man since 2012, came under fire within the denomination after marrying his partner of over 29 years in a UMC church in 2016.
In light of the marriage, 11 UMC members reportedly sent a complaint about Meredith to Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of UMC's West Ohio Conference questioning whether Meredith is fit to be a UMC pastor and argued that his marriage violates UMC guidelines on sexuality.
The 2016 UMC Book of Discipline states that persons set apart for ordained ministry "are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world." The UMC policy states that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
"Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church," the policy explains.
Meredith's gay marriage in the UMC church was initially deemed "disobedience to the order and discipline of the church." Despite Meredith's seeming contradiction with the UMC rules, Meredith's charges were dismissed by the West Ohio Conference last year.
However, an appeals hearing was held before bishops on March 9 in Indianapolis, which ultimately lead to the appeals committee ruling Monday. Meredith was not allowed to speak on his own behalf at the meeting, RTV6 reports.
"This ruling is a sad illustration of the juridical lock-box that the Methodist establishment has placed itself in," Steve Depoe, chair of Clifton United Methodist Church council, said in a statement shared with RTV6. "The Holy Spirit was not favored during that hearing, nor in the decision. But the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, even for United Methodists. Pastor David Meredith will continue to serve as a faithful pastor for one of the strongest congregations in the West Ohio Conference."
Although the regional appeals committee ordered the West Ohio Conference to rehear Meredith's case, the appeals committee reportedly asked that the case not be reheard until after the special meeting of the global United Methodist Church in February 2019.
This provides the opportunity for the case to be considered moot if the UMC is to revise language on homosexuality in the Book of Discipline, the ABC affiliate reports.
Earlier this month, it was reported that a UMC pastor in Tennessee was stripped of her pastoral license by a local UMC district committee for marrying a same-sex couple.
On Monday, the UMC's North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals remanded the case against Rev. David Meredith back to the West Ohio Committee on Investigation, which had previously dismissed the two most serious violations Meredith faced – that he lived an "immoral lifestyle" and that as a "self-avowed, practicing homosexual" he couldn't be ordained as a minister.