I’m getting another free pass from my Bishop.

Is this a good thing or not? Should I celebrate this or not?

I received my first free pass a year ago. I signed the marriage license at the same sex wedding of my daughter in August, 2014. A complaint was filed. The conclusion of the supervisory response process was a just resolution. This resolution encouraged me to continue my advocacy work instead of resulting in any negative consequences for me.

I signed another marriage license for a same sex couple in July, 2015. This was the wedding of Rev. Hutchison who had been forced to resign his pastorate at Cassopolis UMC four days earlier. Once again a complaint was filed against me. This time I chose not to take another free pass during the Supervisory Response process.

The Bishop passed the complaint on to a counsel for the church. Three months have now elapsed. The Book of Discipline (BOD) and Judicial Council are clear that that counsel for the church is to collect evidence and give it to the Committee on Investigation for them to decide whether to send the case to trial. In my case, the counsel for the church has the evidence (copy of signed marriage license) and is not passing it on to the Committee on Investigation.

Therefore, I’ve received another free pass from my Bishop.

Is this a good thing or not? Many people will say this is a good thing. It’s a way for progressive bishops to handle the parts of the BOD they don’t agree with. It allows our pastors to officiate at weddings for all people without worrying about any negative consequences. As a result, hundreds of same sex weddings have been officiated at by United Methodist pastors.

We can celebrate this as a step forward for our church and God’s kingdom of justice for all. Others will argue that free passes are not a good thing, especially as we approach General Conference. The free passes hide the size of the ecclesial disobedient (biblically obedient) movement in our church. It silences those who are trying to publicly witness to the injustice of the present laws in our BOD. Free passes encourage the delegates at General Conference to continue with the status quo and not make any changes to the BOD this year.

I truly appreciate the gift of another free pass from my Bishop. But I’m torn about whether I should celebrate this as a good thing. I believe I would rather take the consequences of my action.

I want to stand in solidarity with Rev. Meyer and Rev. Hutchison who do not receive free passes.

I want to stand in solidarity with my daughter. My continued prayer is the Lord would help our church find a way to end our 44 year war and open our doors to all people.

Rev. Mike Tupper

Rev. Mike Tuppper is an elder serving at Parchment UMC in the West Michigan Conference. Mike grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University and St. Paul School of Theology. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from North Park Seminary. Mike married in 1978. He and his wife, Lori, are the parents of two grown children. Mike loves outdoor activities such as walking, backpacking, canoe camping and kayaking.

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