Rev. David Meredith, the pastor of Clifton UMC, a thriving church in the Cincinnati area, continues to face the consequences of discriminatory policies in The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline. Just days before General Conference 2016, Rev. Meredith married his long time partner, Jim Schlachter, at Broad St. UMC. Complaints were soon filed against him. Three were forwarded to the West Ohio Committee on Investigations which, after careful consideration, dismissed two of them. The counsel for the church then appealed. The rulings from this appeals hearing are in.
The North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals has ruled that the previously dismissed charges of being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” and disobedience to the Discipline be reconsidered by the West Ohio Committee. The Committee on Appeals has also requested that the reconsideration not be attempted until after General Conference in February 2019.
Jan Lawrence, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, commented after the ruling, “Justice must wait, again! While Rev. Meredith is able to continue in ministry at Clifton UMC, these results, in many ways, leave him, his husband Jim, his congregants, and all who care for Rev. Meredith in a state of uncertainty for yet another year. The discrimination evident in this ruling, no matter the timeline, is unacceptable and unjust.”
Rev. Meredith said of the ruling, “It makes me righteously angry that another group of Methodist leaders chose not to be faithful Christians and overturn the Book of Discipline in ways they had control over. Instead, they abdicated their responsibility and passed it onto somebody else. We’ve had way too many years of United Methodist leaders – clergy and laity – who have had opportunities to help us move forward, and they have abdicated it every time.”
It is because of complaints and rulings like these that we must continue to boldly model the way forward for our church now – one that includes, celebrates, and loves God’s LGBTQ children. We must be a way forward that recognizes LGBTQ people as called and equipped by God for faithful and fruitful ministry. We must be a way forward that witnesses to Christ’s outpouring and unconditional love for all of God’s children.
Let us be the church – right now – that we know The UMC might one day become. The lives and ministry of Rev. Meredith, of other LGBTQ clergy, and of each one of us depend on it.