UMC Pastor Will Face Trial for Officiating Gay Son's Wedding

A United Methodist Church minister who is also dean of Yale Divinity School will face an ecclesiastical court for officiating his homosexual son's wedding in New York last year.

After the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree officiated his son's gay wedding, Methodist leaders demanded he be charged with violating the UMC's ban on clergy performing same-sex marriages.

"I was inspired … I actually wasn't thinking of this as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son," said Ogletree to the New York Times. "Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed … But if you can't, you break it."

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In October 2012, Ogletree officiated the same-sex wedding of his son, Thomas Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad. New York has legalized same-sex marriage and the ceremony was announced in the New York Times.

According to the United Methodist Church's official rules, homosexuality is considered "incompatible with Christian teaching" and no clergyman can perform a same-sex wedding even in a state where it is legal.

Ogletree's decision to officiate the wedding and his stated belief that the United Methodist Church should change its rules has garnered the support of many progressive Methodist groups.

Methodists In New Directions (MIND), a New York based LGBT Methodist group, stated its support for Ogletree's decision to perform the wedding.

"Tom Ogletree's action in presiding over his son's wedding was profoundly personal and quintessentially pastoral. No minister should be required to discriminate against those he or she is charged to care for," said MIND in a statement released Sunday.

"Tom Ogletree's action was entirely consistent with the longstanding opposition of the New York Annual Conference to the UMC's prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people."

John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that this was not the first high-profile UMC pastor to gain headlines for disobeying the UMC's rules on homosexuality.

"There have been high-profile cases of clergy being defrocked or suspended for blessing same-sex unions or 'being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual' – both of which are expressly forbidden by our rules," said Lomperis.

"There have been other cases of dishonest clergy more or less getting away with such things. In such cases, heterodox church officials often invent extremely convoluted, silly arguments for why our rules don't actually say what they say."

Lomperis believes that the trial, which has garnered many headlines in secular and religious media, "raises the heat on all sides."

"Regardless of the church trial outcome, I expect it will make a number of people want to leave the UMC, some because of our rules affirming biblical teaching, and others because this issue is even treated as up for debate," said Lomperis.

"It needs to be stressed that in our global denomination as a whole, sexual liberals are losing the debate. The last UMC General Conference saw significantly stronger support for biblical standards than the previous one."

Thomas Ogletree is not the first child of the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree to have a same-sex union ceremony. Of his five children, Ogletree also has a lesbian daughter who had a non-Methodist ceremony in Massachusetts.

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