A United Methodist Church associate pastor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has lost her pastoral license because of her decision to break denomination's biblically-based rules and marry a same-sex couple.
St. Elmo United Methodist Church announced to its congregation on Sunday that Anna Golladay, who served as associate pastor, is no longer allowed to work at the church because the UMC district committee on ministry has revoked her license.
"That committee learned that Anna, while serving as local pastor, officiated a same-sex wedding," the church's lead Pastor Gary Ihfe wrote in a Facebook post Monday. "The committee decided this was in breach of her covenant to serve as pastor as outlined in the 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline, and so they rescinded her license."
As a denomination, the UMC officially holds a Christian view that marriage is a union between only one man and one woman and supports laws in civil society that defines marriage in those terms.
According to the UMC's 2016 Book of Discipline section on chargeable offenses, pastors can be punished for "conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions" or "performing same-sex wedding ceremonies."
UMC District Superintendent for Chattanooga Randy Martin, who was part of the committee that made the decision to revoke Golladay's license, confirmed to WTVC that the decision was made because of the Book of Discipline statement prohibiting pastors from officiating same-sex weddings.
Golladay worked with both the St. Elmo and St. Mark's United Methodist congregations in Chattanooga and helped lead the effort to make those congregations more welcoming to the LGBT community.
According to WTVC, the churches are just two of three Methodist churches in the region that advertise that the LGBT community is welcome.
"This news was shared with the congregation on Sunday morning, and a variety of emotions were felt. Words were shouted, tears were shed, hugs were given, and prayers were said," Ihfe stated in his Facebook post. "I am so sorry for the pain that is being felt by many of our families who feel as though they have come under attack. I want to assure you and your family are both loved and valued by our congregation. You and your family are loved and valued by our leadership, our staff and by me. More importantly, you and your family are loved and cherished by God."
Having grown up in the Methodist tradition, Golladay told the local television outlet that she knew the severity of her decision last fall to marry a same-sex couple she had been ministering to for years.
"If I am going to step out in faith knowing that I am potentially crossing a line based on the rules of a man-made book, I wanted to be intentional about that," she said. "I wanted to be sure that it was exactly what God intended me to do."
"I find it sad that the Church asks of me to be their pastor in all ways at all times, except for one day out of one year in their entire life," she added. "There's something fundamentally wrong about that."
In his statement, Ihfe assured that St. Elmo won't "shy away from its mission."
"We will still boldly serve, accept, love, and teach all people. We will still open our doors and leadership within our congregation to all people no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, socio-economic class, race, nationality, disability, age, or any other marker that might try to divide us," the statement reads. "We are all one in Jesus Christ. I know that there are challenges now before us; there are wounds that need to heal and voices that need to speak."
Another Methodist pastor in the area understands why the decision was made to revoke Golladay's license.
"When this pastor received permission and authority to serve a church and preach the Gospel, [she] understood where the church stood at this time. ... So it was a personal choice," Doug Fairbanks, pastor of Chattanooga's First Centenary United Methodist Church, told WTVC.
However, Barry Condra, a Methodist churchgoer, feels that the decision to revoke Golladay's license was a mistake.
"We do understand that it was in the Book of Discipline but the book needs to be changed," Condra told the outlet.
Judy Iserman, a non-Methodist Christian who lives in the area, said in an interview with WTVC that the affirmation of homosexuality is not "biblical."
"I don't think it's biblical," Iserman said. "[B]ecause that's a flat out — it says that's a sin."