Methodist Church suspends retired Dallas minister for performing same-sex wedding

Posted on 21 Mar 2014 at 10:25am
The Rev. Bill McElvaney marries Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church on March 1. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Rev. Bill McElvaney marries Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church on March 1. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, emeritus pastor of Dallas’ Northaven’s United Methodist Church, has been suspended for marrying longtime couple Jack Evans and George Harris.

McElvaney married the couple of 53 years on March 1 at nearby Midway Hills Christian Church after announcing in January that he was taking a stand for marriage equality and “would consider it a privilege to officiate at a same-sex wedding.” Northaven’s current pastor decided not to have the ceremony take place at the church becasue of possible repercussions by the Methodist Church.

He received notice a week later from Dallas Bishop Michael McKee, notifying him of a complaint filed by the Rev. Camille Gaston.

“The UM Discipline calls for a supervisory response from the bishop,” McElvaney wrote in a post on Northaven’s website, where he announced the news. “This response is intended to be pastoral and administrative, directed toward a just resolution between the parties.”

McElvaney is not on trial for the wedding yet, but the meeting is the first step in determining how to move forward. He is suspended from clergy duties as the process unfolds. Other ministers who’ve violated the Methodist discipline and presided over same-sex weddings have been defrocked.

But McElvaney told Dallas Voice earlier this year that at 85, and who has recently undergone chemotherapy, he had nothing to lose by standing on the right side of history.

“I owe the Methodist church a lot, but what I do not owe the Methodist Church is my soul,” he said.

Read McElvaney’s statement below.

STATEMENT TO NORTHAVEN CONGREGATION

On March 7 I received a letter from Bishop Michael McKee notifying me that a complaint had been filed by Reverend Camille Gaston in regard to my conducting a same sex wedding service on March 1.  The UM Discipline calls for a supervisory response from the bishop.  This response is intended to be pastoral and administrative, directed toward a just resolution between the parties.

The bishop will set a date soon for this meeting involving the bishop, Rev. Gaston, me, and a person of my choice.  The bishop’s letter also informed me that he is suspending me from all clergy responsibilities for a period not to exceed 90 days beginning March 7.  The decisions by Bishop McKee are all according to rules established in the UM Book of Discipline.

As this process unfolds, I will keep Northaven informed.  There are a number of possibilities that may arise from these developments.  This first step involves no legal counsel or judicial procedure.   I would like to ask Northaven members to hold the bishop, the complainant and me in your prayerful concerns as this process unfolds.  I encourage no other response to the bishop’s letter at this time.

God’s Peace,

Bill McElvaney

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