Since the death of Bishop Martin McLee I have almost daily searched for additional news about his significant ministry, and plans for his funeral service. I have written, as I have done my “grief work” in response to his death, about the similarities of our experiences. Martin Mclee received his “Call” to the ministry while attending a United Methodist Church in Dallas,Texas. He attended Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. I, long before Bishop McLee was born, when my father pastored a Church in Dallas, attended public schools in Dallas.

Bishop Mclee and I have both served as Pastors of Union United Methodist Church in Boston, and were named District Superintendents while at Union.

Each time, I search for more information about Bishop McLee, I am disturbed by an article that keeps surfacing titled, “Conservative Methodists Upset by UMC Bishop’s Decision.” The article begins, “Conservative members of the UMC have expressed disappointment over a bishop’s  refusal to punish a clergyman who violated church rules by officiating at his son’s gay wedding.”

Many of us are pleased that Bishop McLee called for a “cessation” of church trials in response to marriage equality.

As we mourn the unexpected and sudden death of Bishop Martin Mclee, I want to share this that I have just received from Presbyterian New Service:


“Seeking forgiveness in Hudson River Presbytery: 

A pastor who brought suit that defined PC(USA)’s distinction between marriage and holy unions, repents of his position.”

Rev. Marc Benton in the first paragraph of the article says this,

“I am here to ask forgiveness from the presbytery and particularly those members of it who I harmed by a court case I initiated in 1999….Through numerous conversations with persons who are lesbian and gay, (I came to understand) that they did not in any sense choose to be gay… I became devastated by the hardship they faced of living in a culture where there are still many people who are prejudiced against homosexuality.”

The article is dated, September 10, 2014 – a day that would have been the 59th birthday of Bishop Martin McLee if he had lived.

I can already hear those who say to say to me, “Gil, you are not supposed to mention the unpleasant as we do our grief work. It is easier for the Church to pretend that Bishop McLee experienced no resistance to his courageous and Christ-centered stand. At, least why could you not have written this after his ‘Homegoing Service?'”

I have written it because God continues to work in mysterious ways. Sharing the act of forgiveness by a Presbyterian clergyman, may produce United Methodists who will do that as well.

What a faith-based response to the life and death of Bishop Martin McLee that would be – if it happened.

Rev. Gil Caldwell

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church. Gil's advocacy efforts were also featured in the film "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Learn more at truthinprogress.com

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