The United Methodist Church has formally charged another clergyman for presiding at the same-sex wedding of his son, The Associated Press reported.
The Rev. Thomas Ogletree will be tried March 10 for violating church law against officiating at gay unions, his spokeswoman, Dorothee Benz, announced Friday. It’s the second high-profile United Methodist trial in recent months over same-sex relationships. In December, pastor Frank Schaefer of central Pennsylvania was defrocked after he officiated at his son’s gay wedding. The church considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Ogletree is a theologian, a former Yale Divinity School dean and a retired elder in the church’s New York district, or Annual Conference. Some clergy had filed a complaint after his son’s 2012 wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times.
Ogletree, 80, said he could not refuse his son’s request to preside at the wedding, which was held in New York, where gay marriage is legally recognized.
“It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows to ‘seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people’ and with Methodism’s historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors,'” Ogletree said in a statement.
Bishop Martin McLee, who leads the New York Annual Conference, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
The Rev. Randall Paige of Christ Church UMC in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., led the group of clergy who had filed the complaint against Ogletree, according to United Methodist News Service. An administrator at Christ Church said Paige was off Friday and could not immediately be reached for comment. Theologically conservative Methodists have said they file formal complaints reluctantly, hoping to find another resolution for their disagreements, but feel clergy must be held accountable when they violate church policy.
Like other mainline Protestant groups, Methodists have been debating for decades over whether the Bible condemns or condones same-gender relationships. However, other mainline groups, such as the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have in recent years taken key steps toward accepting same-sex couples. The top Methodist policy-making body, General Conference, has repeatedly rejected changing church law on homosexuality, including in their most recent vote at a 2012 meeting.
In the last few years, as gay marriage has gained legal recognition by U.S. states, Methodists advocating for gays and lesbians have intensified their protests, hosting gay weddings in Methodist churches or officiating the ceremonies elsewhere.
Two other similar cases are pending within the Methodist church. The Rev. Stephen Heiss of the Upper New York Annual Conference is expected to face a church trial for presiding at same-sex marriages, including officiating at his daughter’s 2002 wedding. The Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy, of the New York Annual Conference, is facing a formal complaint that she is a “self-avowed practicing” lesbian, or lives openly with a same-sex partner, which is barred by church law.
Ogletree’s trial will be held at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Conn.
The United Methodist Church is the second-largest Protestant group in the U.S. and claims 12.5 million members worldwide.