Minister Under Complaint for 1,000 Days for LGBTQ+ Inclusion
Bishop of Virginia Annual Conference Unwilling to Reach Just Resolution
FAIRFAX – The June 16, 2022 meeting of the Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) marks 1,000 days of living under complaint for Rev. Drew Ensz, who presided at a same-sex wedding for a former student in 2019. Although the complaint process is rigorously detailed in The UMC’s Book of Discipline, Virginia’s Bishop Sharma Lewis has flagrantly evaded the duties of her office to seek resolution with Rev. Ensz.
The Bishop is required by the Book of Discipline to either resolve the complaint, dismiss it, or refer it to the Counsel for the Church A thousand days later, this Counsel has been identified and trained but not formally appointed. As recently as December 2021 Bishop Lewis refused a request from Rev. Ensz to enter into a Just Resolution conversation with the Counsel for the Church. According to the Book of Discipline, the goal of any complaint process is a Just Resolution.
The complaint process as outlined by the Book of Discipline is designed to handle instances of egregious harm committed by a minister. It was not designed to prosecute theological differences, as is in the case with Rev. Ensz. This prolonged and unresolved complaint has had a chilling effect on ministry and community-building with LGBTQ+ United Methodists in the Virginia Annual Conference. In addition, this willful negligence is a violation of the Book of Discipline and one that has gone unchecked for over two years.
Says Rev. Ensz: “For the past 1,000 days our ministry, the Virginia Conference and my family have had to undergo incredible stress and emotional and spiritual harm. At any moment my livelihood can be at risk, and I have not had the opportunity to resolve the charges against me. Our family continues to make hard decisions, such as whether to take additional time off to be with my infant daughter and turn in my credentials or continue to be in full-time ministry while my wife and child were in the NICU.”
While most bishops of all theological leanings have agreed to hold in abeyance complaints about LGBTQ+ ordination and weddings through the next meeting of the General Conference, this unresolved complaint is an ongoing act of harm and not in the spirit of the abeyance. For Rev. Ensz, this standstill has resulted in personal and familial hardship, including the inability to take a family medical leave of absence when his youngest child was born prematurely at 31 weeks. As far back as January 2021, Rev. Ensz raised the concern that if a family member became sick, he would have to choose between caring for the family member or turning in his orders.
Soon after receiving a letter from Rev. Ensz to discuss this concern, Bishop Lewis offered to meet. In the conversation establishing the meeting time, Rev. Ensz was assured that the meeting had nothing to do with the complaint against him and he should not bring his advocate. However, Bishop Lewis did not discuss the letter, and she utilized the meeting to instead demand information to see if Ensz had officiated at the wedding of another same-sex couple in November 2020.
Rev. Ensz says: “Bishop Lewis in my understanding of The 2016 Book of Discipline has failed to live out the process as required and does great harm to myself, my family, other colleagues, members of the LGBTQ+ community and Virginia United Methodists as a whole.”
Living into its shared baptismal covenant, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) equips and mobilizes United Methodists to resist evil, injustice, and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. RMN envisions a renewed and vibrant Wesleyan movement that is biblically and theologically centered. As committed disciples of Jesus Christ, RMN strives to transform the world by living out the Gospel’s teachings of grace, love, justice, and inclusion for all of God’s children.
For more information, contact:
Ophelia Hu Kinney, Director of Communications
Reconciling Ministries Network