Case Dropped In Church Prosecution Of Scholar

By |2014-03-13T09:00:00-04:00March 13th, 2014|National, News|

WHITE PLAINS, NY – At a joint press conference Mar. 11, United Methodist Bishop Martin McLee and Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree announced that the church was dropping the case against Dr. Ogletree for officiating at his son’s wedding. Furthermore, Bishop McLee said in his statement, “I call for and commit to cessation of trials,” the first time a sitting United Methodist bishop has categorically declared he will not prosecute pastors for ministering to LGBTQ people.
“I am grateful that Bishop McLee has withdrawn this case and the church is no longer prosecuting me for an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love,” said Dr. Ogletree. “But I am even more grateful that he is vowing not to prosecute others who have been likewise faithful in ministry to LGBTQ people. May our bishop’s commitment to cease such prosecutions be the beginning of the end of the United Methodist Church’s misguided era of discriminating against LGBTQ people.”
Ogletree, a past dean of both Yale Divinity School and Drew Theological Seminary, a scholarly expert in Christian ethics, and an author of a section of the UMC’s Book of Discipline, began his service to the church in 1952, a time when Methodist rules barred women from serving as clergy and segregated African Americans into a separate central jurisdiction.
“It has been exciting to see support for marriage equality grow from the ground up in the United Methodist Church,” said Ross Murray, director of news for GLAAD. “Bishop McLee is following the will of God and recognizing the pastoral care and support that LGBT people need. He knows that by putting such ministry on trial, he would only damage the ministry of his church. I applaud Bishop McLee for his bravery, as well as Dr. Ogletree and so many others who continue to minister to the LGBT community.”
“This resolution completely vindicates Tom,” said Dr. Dorothee Benz, the spokesperson for Ogletree and chair of Methodists in New Directions, which provided Ogletree’s legal defense. “While it is good that Tom will not have to stand trial for saying ‘yes’ when his son asked ‘Dad, will you do my wedding?’ it is important to remember that trials are not the problem in the United Methodist Church, they are merely the symptom. The problem is the wholesale condemnation of gays and lesbians as ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ and the systematic discrimination against us and those who would dare to minister to us.
“The declaration that he will no longer prosecute pastors like Tom who refuse to deny ministry to LGBTQ people is a bold act of leadership for our bishop, whose longstanding support herewith takes a new step that mirrors our own refusal to follow discriminatory laws,” Benz added.
With the agreement announced today, Bishop McLee joins a small but growing number of U.S. bishops who are openly breaking with their colleagues’ insistence on enforcing the UMC’s anti-gay discriminatory rules. In October 2013 retired Bishop Talbert became the first bishop to preside at a same-sex wedding. After the Council of Bishops voted to direct two of its members to file a formal complaint against Bishop Talbert, four bishops took the unprecedented step of issuing statements publicizing their dissent in that vote. In December, after the Eastern Pennsylvania Board of Ordained Ministry moved to strip Frank Schaefer of his ministerial credentials, Bishop Minerva Carcano publicly offered him a job as a pastor in the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

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