Methodists drop charges against retired Yale dean who performed same-sex wedding

McLee

Bishop Martin D. McLee

Bishop Martin D. McLee dropped all charges Monday against the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a Methodist minister, for performing his son’s wedding last fall. McLee is a bishop of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“I call for and commit 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,” McLee said.

Ogletree, 79, is the retired dean of Yale Divinity School and remains professor Emeritus of Theological Ethics at Yale.

According to the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Anyone within the church may file a complaint and a bishop may elevate the complaint to charges that may result in a minister being defrocked.

Earlier this month, the Rev. Bill McElvaney performed a wedding ceremony in Dallas for a couple that has been together for 53 years. McElvaney is 85 and retired. No complaints have been filed against him yet, but the statute of limitations doesn’t run out for seven years. Several dozen Methodist ministers from around the state attended.

The case is similar to that of the Rev. Frank Schaefer who performed a wedding ceremony for his son. In that case, Schaefer was tried and defrocked in December. He spoke at Cathedral of Hope recently and will return in May to speak at Northaven United Methodist Church.

Schaefer is appealing his defrocking.

“I’m very happy about the church’s decision to drop Rev. Ogletree’s case,” Schaefer wrote on Facebook. “I am also happy to see bishop Martin McLee take a huge step forward to cease all LGBT-related trials. I am not sure if this will have a positive or negative effect on my appeal. I’m hoping for a positive one!”

—  David Taffet

After 53 years, Evans and Harris pack the church for their wedding

Methodist ministers from around the Meteroplex and as far away as Austin attended the wedding of Jack Evans and George Harris at Midway Hills Christian Church.

Harris and Evans are members of Northaven United Methodist Church. The denomination does not allow same-sex weddings to be performed in their churches or Methodist ministers to perform those ceremonies.

The Rev. Bill McElvaney, who is retired, announced at Northaven on Jan. 15 that he would perform same-sex weddings.

On Saturday afternoon, McElvaney walked down the aisle but sat as he officiated, because he had a round of chemotherapy just days before. He sounded strong and brought the crowd of several hundred to their feet several times as he blessed the couple who has been together 53 years.

The issue of same-sex marriage is dividing the United Methodist Church and has heated up since the Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked last fall for performing his son’s wedding.

“It’s not my intent to politicize this marriage,” McElvaney said during the wedding. “But…”

With news cameras from most local stations at the church and four stories about the wedding in the Dallas Morning News, there was little doubt the wedding was political.

“Jack and George are challenging the United Methodist Church to become a fully inclusive church,” McElvaney said.

He said he wanted to correct any news reports that said he was a willing participant.

“I’m privileged to be part of it,” he said.

The Rev. Arthur Stewart, pastor of Midway Hills, said he got calls from other pastors of his denomination as news broke about the wedding at his church. He was told that what he was doing was a disgrace to the denomination. He answered that it would be a disgrace if he didn’t welcome the couple to his church. Midway Hill is a member of The Chistian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“When it comes to justice, our doors are always open,” Stewart said.

The Rev. Sid Hall is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin. He said he performed a number of same weddings at his church between 1992, when his church because a reconciling congregation, and 1996, when the United Methodist Church outlawed the practice. Since then, his church has performed no weddings, gay or straight.

Since then, he said, a number of same-sex weddings have been performed in churches around Texas, just nothing as open and public as this event.

Hall speculated what his and every other congregation would be without their LGBT members, gay music directors and organists.”

“Worship would suck,” Hall said.

He wouldn’t speculate on whether charges would be brought against McElvaney or not. Anyone within the denomination may file a complaint, he explained, and the local bishop may decide to elevate the complaint to charges.

Hall, however, thought there couldn’t be a worse case than this one for the church to use as an example — a pastor in his 80s undergoing chemotherapy celebrating the lives of a couple that’s been together longer than most straight couples.

McElvaney said he wouldn’t speculate about whether charges will be filed.

“It’s their business what they do,” McElvaney said. “And I’ll deal with it.”

At the reception, held at Northaven United Methodist Church, McElvaney had one wish for Harris and Evans.

“Continued joy, health and happiness,” he said.

Evans and Harris don’t think things will be much different now that they’re married. Harris said they’re not planning to have kids.

“Hell, he won’t even let me have a dog,” Harris said.

—  David Taffet

Pa. pastor faces church trial over son’s gay marriage

UM-LOGO4A United Methodist minister’s decision to officiate his gay son’s marriage could cost him his job, ABC News reported.

A jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy will decide if the Rev. Frank Schaefer should be defrocked for defying his denomination’s anti-gay teachings, but his supporters say the church’s teachings on homosexuality is outmoded.

“Public opinion has changed very rapidly,” said the pastor’s son, Tim Schaefer. “I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic.”

The minister pastors a church in Pennsylvania, and the marriage took place in Massachusetts.

The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Clergy who perform same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing their minister’s credentials.

The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-gender unions.

Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church’s democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination’s top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church’s 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.

The Methodists have set aside three days for Schaefer’s trial, to be held at a church retreat in Spring City, Pa.

“What is my crime? I blessed two people that loved each other,” Schaeffer told ABC News.

—  Steve Ramos

Rev. Amy Delong, tried by Methodists for being a lesbian, to preach at Bering Memorial Methodist Church

Rev. Amy DeLong

Paperwork can be the bane of any job. For Rev. Amy Delong a simple annual report catapulted her into the maelstrom of the United Methodist Church’s debate on accepting LGBT people. DeLong visits Houston’s Bering Memorial United Methodist Church (1440 Harold) on Sunday, Feb. 12 to preach at both the 8:30 and 10:50 service.

In 2009 DeLong was approached by two women who wanted to get married. After conducting premarital counseling with the couple Delong agreed to perform the ceremony. As a clergy person, DeLong was required to report on her activities at the end of the year, including any weddings she had performed. She knew that the Methodist Church did not allow same-sex marriage but thought “I don’t know if anybody even reads these.” Boy, was she wrong!

With-in three days she was hauled into the her boss’s (the bishop) office. DeLong’s relationship with her partner Val was well known to her colleagues. “I’ve never had a bishop or a leader in the church or a pastor who didn’t know that I was gay,” says DeLong. “Everyone knows Val.” But the church was determined now to make an example of her, and DeLon’s relationship would now be an issue.

In 2011 DeLong was tried in the church’s court with violating the Methodist “Book of Discipline” by being in a same-sex relationship and by performing a same-sex wedding. During the trial she refused to answer pointed questions about her and her partner’s sex life. “No heterosexual couples are ever asked if they
still engage in genital contact in their marriages,” says DeLong. That refusal left the court with no evidence against her on the first charge.

She was convicted of performing the wedding and suspended from ministry for 20 days. The court also required DeLong to work with a group of ministers to prepare a statement on how to “help resolve issues that harm the clergy covenant, create an advesarial spirit or lead to future trails.” “This sentence is complicated,” says DeLong. “It doesn’t lend itself well to media soundbites. So a lot of folks have been saying to me ‘I can’t tell, is this penalty good?’” DeLong responds with a resounding “Yes!” Saying that she welcomes the opportunity to write, teach and study on a topic dear to her heart.

DeLong recalls that during that initial meeting in the bishop’s office one of the bishop’s assistants referred to her as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” To which she responded “Val and I aren’t practicing any more… we are pretty good at it by now.” The assistant laughed. More than anything that is the impression one gets of DeLong: someone with a lot of humor and aplomb who is unwilling to back down from a fight for justice.

After the jump watch a clip of DeLong talking about her experience.

—  admin

Churches debate whether to marry gays

As more states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups grapple with whether to allow ceremonies

RACHEL ZOLL | AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK — After same-sex marriage becomes legal here on July 24, gay priests with partners in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will head to the altar. They have to. Their bishop set a nine-month deadline for them to marry or stop living together.

Next door, meanwhile, the Episcopal bishop of New York says he also expects gay clergy in committed relationships to wed “in due course.” Still, this longtime supporter of gay rights says churches in his diocese are off limits for gay weddings until he receives clearer liturgical guidance from the national denomination.

As more U.S. states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups with ambiguous policies on homosexuality are divided over whether they should allow the ceremonies in local congregations. The decision is especially complex in the mainline Protestant denominations that have yet to fully resolve their disagreements over the Bible and homosexuality. Many have taken steps toward acceptance of gay ordination and same-gender couples without changing the official definition of marriage in church constitutions and canons. With the exception of the United Church of Christ, which approved gay marriage six years ago, none of the larger mainline churches has a national liturgy for same-sex weddings or even blessing ceremonies.

The result is a patchwork of church policies in states where gays can civilly wed — not only for lay people, but also for gay clergy who want to marry their partners.

“It’s a challenge for us,” said Tony De La Rosa, administrator of the Presbytery of New York City, a regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “I think this is a moment of great tumult in the sights of the church.”

The New York regional body of the United Methodist Church issued a statement reminding local congregations that the Methodist Book of Discipline bars any celebration of same-gender unions, but encouraged congregants to “extend God’s love” to each other, “particularly those with whom we disagree.”

Just last Sunday, the Presbyterian Church formally lifted barriers to ordination for gays and lesbians who are not celibate, although individual congregations had been hiring gay pastors and conducting same-sex blessing ceremonies for years. De La Rosa expects a similar mix of responses to gay marriage laws, even though a minister who conducts a same-gender marriage is at risk of possible disciplinary action by the denomination since the ceremonies are not officially authorized. De La Rosa, who is gay, said he does not plan to wed because the marriage would not be recognized in California, where he and his partner are residents.

New York churches can look for guidance to religious leaders in the five other states where gay marriage is already legal: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa, plus the District of Columbia.

The New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which includes four of the five states with gay marriage, issued a document stating that pastors can choose to solemnize same-sex marriages in individual churches that give their approval. The Upstate New York Synod, which oversees Lutheran churches in the Albany area, distributed that document to local leaders ahead of an upcoming discussion on the gay marriage law. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America formally abolished a celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy more than a year ago, but still defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Rev. David Preisinger, an assistant to the Upstate New York bishop, said the bishop has indicated that she will not take action against clergy who perform the ceremonies. He said churches in his region have already received several requests for weddings and believes they will take place soon.

“There are some congregations that are very open to it and others that don’t want anything to do with it,” Preisinger said.

The Episcopal Church blazed a trail, and enraged fellow Anglicans worldwide, in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. On same-sex marriage, Episcopal dioceses have been guided by a 2009 resolution from the General Convention, the church’s top national policy body, that asked for a “generous pastoral response” to gay couples, especially in states with same-sex marriage or civil unions.

However, bishops disagree about what the resolution means. Each has cited the measure when issuing dramatically different policies.

Even before the New York legislature had passed the gay marriage bill last month, Bishop Gladstone Adams, who leads the Syracuse-based Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, had asked the local liturgy committee to draft a rite for same-gender marriage. Adams said individual priests and parishes could decide whether to conduct the ceremonies. He has not yet set a policy on marriage for clergy living with same-gender partners.

In the Diocese of New York, Bishop Mark Sisk said local priests could bless couples who marry elsewhere in a civil ceremony, but could not solemnize the marriages.

“I do not believe that resolution … empowered bishops to authorize clergy to perform such marriages,” Sisk wrote in a statement. “Nor do I believe that it is appropriate for clergy to circumvent the vows we have taken by becoming separately licensed by the state to perform such marriages.”

His position stunned many Episcopalians. The New York diocese is considered so gay-friendly that the local chapter of the national Episcopal gay advocacy group, Integrity, focuses instead on outreach to other gay and lesbians seeking a religious community, according to Mary O’Shaughnessy, New York City coordinator for the organization.

Sisk’s spokesman said the bishop won’t move forward without an approved liturgy. Episcopalians are drafting prayers for blessing same-gender couples that advocates hope will be accepted next year by the General Convention.

O’Shaughnessy said she was disappointed by Sisk’s decision, but said he has “unequivocally” supported gay and lesbian rights and she understands that he has a broad constituency to consider, including parishes in the diocese that lie outside of Manhattan.

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said there is nothing “punitive” about the nine-month period he set for clergy to marry their partners — a length of time he said was similar to an academic year. No one will be disciplined for failing to meet the deadline. Instead, he said he would handle each priest’s situation on a case-by-case basis. He noted that some private employers are considering restricting domestic partner benefits to those who are legally married.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships,” Provenzano said. “I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense.”

The Rev. Christopher Hofer, pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. Jude in Wantagh, on Long Island, said he has heard no complaints from other gay or lesbian clergy about the policy. Hofer plans a “big” August wedding in his parish with his partner of 17 years, Kerry Brady. They live in the church rectory, where on a recent evening they waited together for a messenger to deliver their wedding rings.

“I think Bishop Provenzano’s statement was not only fair, but beyond generous. It gives people time, acknowledging that there’s a financial component involved, and recognizing that some may not choose to live together,” Hofer said. “Now that the state is recognizing civil marriage, we as priests, perhaps deacons too, who are in committed relationships, have a choice: We either live what we preach, to become civilly married, or we choose to live apart.”

No other Episcopal dioceses in states with same-gender marriage have set an explicit deadline for gay clergy to marry their live-in partners.

Episcopal Bishop John Chane, of the Diocese of Washington, allowed local priests to perform same-sex marriages in parishes that approved the ceremonies, but did not ask clergy to marry or live alone. He said it wouldn’t be fair, since so few states recognize the marriages, and state and federal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act are still in effect and “deny the human rights and disrespect the orientation” of gays and lesbians. He said five gay clergy have married in the Diocese of Washington since same-sex marriages started last year.Churches debate whether to marry gays

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: NY marriage update; UMC pastor convicted; Gates unlikely to certify DADT repeal

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

1. After a week of negotiations, the New York State Senate may finally vote today on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill. If the Senate doesn’t vote on the bill before it adjourns, it’s likely Cuomo would call a special session. Legislative leaders reportedly have agreed “conceptually” on language that would expand religious protections to satisfy some Republicans, but the amendments hadn’t been printed, so there was nothing to vote on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama will speak at a gay campaign fundraiser today in Manhattan, and groups including GetEQUAL are planning a “A Demonstration for Full Equality” outside.

2. In a setback for those who’ve been defying the church’s ban on officiating same-sex weddings, a Methodist pastor was found guilty Wednesday of marrying a lesbian couple. A jury of 13 clergy members that unanimously convicted the Rev. Amy DeLong is expected to announce her punishment today, which could range from suspension to defrocking. DeLong was found not guilty of a second charge that she is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” after she declined to answer whether her relationship includes sexual contact.

3. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is unlikely to certify the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” before he steps down at the end of this month, leading to concerns about further delays in ending the ban on open military service.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: GLAAD president resigns; deal may be near on marriage equality bill in New York

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

Jarrett Barrios

1. GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios has resigned in the wake of a controversy over a letter the organization sent to the FCC in support of Dallas-based AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. Or at least we think Barrios has resigned. GLAAD’s letter to the FCC led to backlash in the gay blogophere because the telecom merger isn’t an LGBT issue and because the organization receives donations from AT&T.

2. The New York State Senate could vote as early as today on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill, but at least one more Republican vote is still neeeded to ensure the measure’s passage. Republican aides spent the weekend working on the language of the bill to strengthen religious protections, and they reportedly made some headway. Today is the last day of New York’s regular legislative session, but it’s likely the session will be extended for a few days. Again, this is a huge impending victory for LGBT equality, as New York is the nation’s third-most populous state and the bill would double the number of Americans living in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. Watch video below of a New York couple who’ve been waiting 61 years to marry.

3. A growing number pastors in the United Methodist Church are marrying same-sex couples in defiance of the church’s ban on the practice, the AP reports. Pastors who violate the ban risk dismissal from the church, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

—  John Wright

Asher Brown’s suicide inspires ‘Bring Your Gay Teen to Church’ event in Houston

LGBT-affirming churches in the Houston area are participating in “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church” on Sunday, which aims to counter negative messages gay youth often receive from religion. The Houston Chronicle reports:

“We think it’s important for families to know there’s a safe place to go to worship,” said Jim Bankston, senior minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. “Families who have gay members want to make sure they feel welcome in church and aren’t bashed in any way.”

Joanna Crawford, a seminary student at the Houston Graduate School of Theology, said the idea came up after the suicide last fall of Asher Brown, a Cypress-area eighth-grader who killed himself after what his parents said were years of bullying and taunts that he was gay.

It is a project of the Houston Clergy Council, formed last year to allow churches to work together on shared concerns.

“None of us knew Asher, but we felt if we could get families into our churches, where they have support, where they feel loved for who they are, not in spite of it, something good could come of that,” Crawford said.

Organized religion has had a complicated relationship with homosexuality.

To see a full list of churches participating and learn more about the event, go here.

—  John Wright

Local Briefs

AIDS Arms moving its offices

Officials with AIDS Arms announced this week that it is moving from its current offices on Sunset Avenue in Oak Cliff to the historic Jefferson Tower, 351 W. Jefferson Ave., effective Monday, Feb. 7.

The offices on Sunset Avenue will close at noon on Feb. 3, and offices will remain closed until re-opening at 9 a.m. the following Monday in Jefferson Tower. The Peabody Health Center’s hours of operation will not be affected by the move.

Executive Director Raeline Nobles said the move is “part of an ambitious campaign” that will include building a new medical facility at the Sunset Avenue location.

“We are excited about our move to Jefferson Tower. It is a beautiful building and will help expand our social service and HIV prevention programs,” Nobles said.

She called the move “the first concrete step toward our vision of creating greater access to quality medical care for underserved individuals in our community.”

She added that the agency’s expansion also “marks significant economic development for Oak Cliff in terms of construction investments, leasing and the employment of clinical professionals.”

Bradshaw presenting workshops in Dallas

Resource Center Dallas and SMU Simmons will present two workshops by John Bradshaw, a personal growth expert and New York Times bestselling author.

Bradshaw will speak on “Reclaiming Your Inner Child” on Thursday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon, focused on exploring the impact of growing up in a dysfunctional family and reclaiming one’s wounded inner children. His topic on Wednesday, March 2, will be “Healing the Shame that Binds Us,” highlighting his theory and therapeutic processes on healing toxic shame.

Registration for both events begins at 8 a.m. Both workshops will be held at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, 3014 Oak Lawn Ave. (The location, originally set for Resource Center Dallas, has changed.)

Mental health professionals can earn continuing education units for attending.

Tickets are $65 for one workshop, or $100 for both. Student price is $25. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Resource Center Dallas.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go online to RCDallas.org.

Senior pug adoption event set

DFW Pug Rescue will hold a senior pug adoption event Saturday, Jan. 29, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Creekside Pet Care, 8820 Davis Blvd. in Keller.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Admission fees paid by those approved to adopt a pug will go toward the adoption fee. Other admission fees will be used to pay for vet care for senior pugs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Chorale to hold open auditions

The Turtle Creek Chorale, on the heals of its successful holiday concerts last month, is looking for new blood — though Edward Cullen isn’t involved. The chorale will hold open rehearsal and orientation at the TCC’s offices in the Sammons Center for the Arts at 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. on Tuesday, Jan. 4, from 7 to 10 p.m., and prospective members are asked to attend and participate. The actual auditions for any singers interested in joining the gay men’s chorus will occur on Sunday, Jan. 9, from 3 to 6 p.m. an the Grace United Methodist Church at 4105 Junius St.

All vocal parts (tenor, bass, baritone … even countertenor if you got the chops) are open. To view a video sample of an actual audition, go here, or to learn more about the chorale, go to TurtleCreek.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones