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Methodists Debate Punishing Pastors Who Perform Same-Sex Marriages

Posted on | March 14, 2014 | No Comments

New York bishop halts church trials that ‘produce no winners,’ while opponents say avoiding church discipline increases likelihood of schism.

The trial of a United Methodist Church (UMC) minister who performed a same-sex marriage ceremony has been halted by a bishop before it began. Meanwhile, a retired UMC bishop may face a trial of his own for a similar ceremony.

Bishop Martin McLee of New York committed this week to stopping all such trials in his region. The New York Timeshas the details.

Meanwhile, Religion News Service reports on the latest (and highest-ranking) dissident to potentially face punishment, and assesses how geography is shaping the "emerging dynamic that allows some pastors in the country's second-largest Protestant denomination to skirt rules banning clergy from performing same-sex wedding, while others risk costly church trials and the loss of clergy credentials."

"The just resolution provisions of the Book of Discipline are clear in voicing just resolution as the preferred response in Judicial Administration," McLee wrote in a statement. "Church trials produce no winners."

McLee committed to "a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation."

It was welcome news for Thomas W. Ogletree, the minister on trial who performed a marriage ceremony for his son and partner in 2002. But it was frustrating for those who support the Methodist Book of Discipline, which affirms "the sanctity of the marriage covenant … between a man and a woman."

"The impact of this settlement today will be that faithful United Methodists who support the church's teachings will feel ignored and will face their own crisis …

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