Read details on the complaint:
Formal letter of complaint to Bishop Goodpaster by Scott Chappell
October 30, 2014
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster
Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
P.O Box 18005 Charlotte, NC 28218
Re: Cover Letter Dear Bishop,
Thank you for hosting us recently at Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, NC and for allowing my fiance and me to share a part of our story. It was a remarkable beginning to what I hope will be ongoing and productive dialogue across our denomination.
Full and equal rights for LGBTQ individuals within our church is a civil rights issue. Sadly, our beloved UMC has been slow to respond to the changes that are necessary for our church to flourish and grow. My fiance, who happens to be black, has described the actions of the United Methodist Church and language in the Book of Discipline as discriminatory, reminding him of our segregated past and opening spiritual wounds that have never fully healed. It is time for our church to draw people toward the God we love rather than drive people away from the sanctuary of Christ’s embrace. Are we to have one altar for all, or continue to relegate some church members to a diminished status, in effect maintaining an altar for heterosexual people and a separate but unequal altar for others?
With this in mind, I have attached a formal complaint levelled at out pastor, Reverend Kelly Carpenter. This is a painful action for my partner and me to take; however, we feel that this is a necessary action at this time. Please understand that we take this complaint very seriously and that we intend to speak with the media about the ongoing discriminatory practices of the United Methodist Church.
October 30, 2014
Re: Formal charges of Reverend Kelly Carpenter
Dear Bishop Goodpaster,
My fiance and I are members of Green Street United Methodist Church, served by Reverend Kelly Carpenter and under your episcopacy. We became engaged during a recent Sunday morning service and our lives were greatly enriched by sharing this moment with our church family. We are active members, faithfully tithing, each singing in the choir, and participating in various church activities. My fiance is the current chair of the Leadership Council and often leads the praise and worship portion of the service. On October 26, 2014 we asked Reverend Carpenter to officiate at our wedding and he has refused to do so, citing church rules from the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline that forbids pastors from celebrating homosexual unions or performing same sex wedding ceremonies. Reverend Carpenter’s refusal to perform our wedding violates our rights as members of his church and my fiance and I wish to charge him for this offense.
God’s grace is available to all and so should the pastoral ministry. We are people of sacred worth but we are being denied the covenant of marriage. My fiance and I have pledged to each other our love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity. I have taken these words directly from the statement regarding marriage from the United Methodist Church, acknowledging that the statement goes on to say that marriage is between one man and one woman. Reverend Carpenter, and the United Methodist
Church at large, has denied us participation in this holy action. This violates the Book of Discipline, paragraph 2702.1, which states that a local pastor may be charged with the offense of “failure to perform the work of the ministry.” My fiance and I are members of this church, having pledged to uphold the work of the church through our prayers, presence, gifts and service. Reverend Carpenter has accepted the call to be our pastor, accepted the call to be in ministry to all people, and accepted our membership in the church, but is refusing to “perform the work of the ministry.” This is the first offense on which we wish to charge Reverend Carpenter.
Secondly, the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline, paragraph 2702.1 states that it is a chargeable offense to commit “racial or gender discrimination.” Reverend Carpenter is committing sex/gender discrimination by refusing to marry two men, an offense that is currently being committed across the entire denomination. Gender discrimination is the second offense on which we wish to charge Reverend Carpenter.
The discriminatory and offensive language in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline and Reverend Carpenter’s refusal to marry my fiance and me has caused great spiritual harm to us both. My fiance and I are forced to marry in a civil ceremony at the Forsyth County Courthouse, which to us reinforces the fact that we are in effect estranged from our church. We work diligently to uphold our vows to our church; however, at this point in our church’s history, we are considered second class citizens, being denied the sanctity of marriage and the opportunity to pledge our commitment to one another in the context of our faith before Almighty God, whom we love dearly. Reverend Carpenter is a perpetrator of this discriminatory practice, perhaps not through his beliefs but through his actions, which are undoubtedly driven by his love for the church and the vows he made at ordination. That said, my fiance and I have been victimized by Reverend Carpenter’s adherence to United Methodist Church rules, which is a chargeable offense per our Book of Discipline.
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline prohibits a pastor from performing same-sex weddings. The Book of Discipline also prohibits a pastor from refusing to perform the work of the ministry and to discriminate on the basis of sex/gender. Bishop, you cannot permit actions counter to the Book of Discipline. Which of these rules will you uphold and which of these rules will you ignore?
Scott Chappell and Kenneth Barner
Response to complaint by Rev. Kelly Carpenter
Over twenty years ago, I told committee members of the Board of Ordained Ministry in two different conferences that I disagreed with language in the United Methodist Discipline that declared “homosexuality is incompatible with christian teaching,” and that I would be active in efforts to change it. Both committees approved me and and I was ordained a Deacon (1993), then an Elder (1996). So, my stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a surprise to no one in the church.
Serving as the Pastor of Green Street UMC has been one of the great privileges of my life. The congregation has grown in number and diversity, with an increasing commitment to ministries of compassion and justice. Five year ago, the congregation became a Reconciling Congregation making a public statement of welcome to the LGBTQ community. As a congregation we struggled against Amendment One, and celebrated its demise as couples throughout our congregation had their long term, committed relationships recognized by the state.
Kenny Barner and Scott Chappell are two of the finest disciples of Jesus that I know. They model love and commitment in both their professional and personal lives. They are devout church members, who lead and serve with joyful obedience. I am humbled and honored to be their pastor. Like so many of the LGBTQ couples in our church, they have taught me the importance of marriage equality.
At this time, I will not violate the prohibition of the church and preside at same sex weddings. It is more than my own personal and professional well-being that would be at risk. Anyone who spends time at Green Street knows that our commitment is not simply to our own members, but to the many community people in need with whom we are in ministry. There is a lot at stake for all of us with such an action.
But as Bishop Melvin Talbert made clear to our church in a sermon last month, Biblical Obedience calls us beyond the discriminatory language of our denomination. In fact, language within the UM Discipline itself calls us to “be in ministry with all people.” If pastors can be charged with violating the Discipline by presiding at ceremonies that celebrate commitment and love, then we should also be charged with discrimination and failing to be in ministry with all people.
In the UM Book of Discipline we read: “Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world. Thus, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination. The mark of an inclusive society is one in which all persons are open, welcoming, fully accepting, and supporting of all other persons, enabling them to participate fully in the life of the church, the community, and the world.” ¶140
These strong words of inclusion have been inspirational for the work at Green Street Church. We have valued the diversity of the human family and seek to practice radical hospitality and welcome. This must include the LGBTQ community. The Formal Complaint from Kenny Barner and Scott Chappell make the discrimination of the United Methodist Church’s prohibition of same-sex marriage explicitly clear. It is just as wrong for the church to deny pastoral ministry to people as it is for the state to deny legal rights and recognition for committed couples, gay/straight.
Civil marriage and marriage in the faith community are different. All couples deserve the ministry of pastoral care and the sacred rites of worship to consecrate their commitment and love. To have a supportive company of faith We straight people have taken for granted the meaning and honor of marriage in the church. Like other privileges, they become apparent only when others have to struggle to receive them.
While Green Street may have a greater percentage of LGBTQ people in their pews on Sunday morning, we are not alone in the Church. This could be the first of many complaints from United Methodist LGBTQ members who are prevented from “participating fully in the life of the church.” I am grateful to Scott and Kenny, and the Green Street congregation, for helping us see the blatant discrimination that still exists in our denomination and to confront our failure to live up to our call in Jesus.
Formal Complaint FAQ document by Green Street UMC
Is this complaint because of the Green Street UMC’s Public Statement on Marriage, March 2013?
No. Mr. Barner was the Lay Leader at the time of the Public Statement on Marriage and remains in full support of the church’s request that no marriage ceremonies take place in the Sanctuary until all couples, gay & straight, can have their marriages recognized by the UM Church. While Rev. Carpenter can and does weddings for opposite sex couples outside of the sanctuary, he is honoring the request of the Leadership Council.
Why did the Pastor refuse to perform the marriage ceremony?
The book of order, the United Methodist Discipline which prohibits pastors from presiding at same sex weddings. The pastor is not challenging this guideline at this time.
Is it possible that the United Methodist Church will overturn this prohibition?
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets every 4 years. The next General Conference will be 2016 in Portland. This is the only church body that has the power to change language within The UM Discipline. Efforts to change the language have been made at each General Conference for the past 2 decades,
What are the possible outcomes of the Complaint?
Complaints against clergy are first lodged with the bishop in the conference in which the clergy person serves. The Bishop is charged to follow the process outlined in the Book of Discipline which encourages finding a resolution which satisfies all parties: the bishop, the person lodging the complaint and the one against who the complaint is made. If a just resolution is not reached it can move toward a trial.
Will the Pastor be suspended or lose his credentials?
If the Bishop finds the complaint has merit, the pastor could be suspended, but he would not lose his credentials unless the complaint moved to a trial and a jury of peers found him guilty and recommended such action. It is unlikely, due to recent communication following the overturning of NC Amendment One that reminding pastors of the Church’s prohibition against same sex marriage.
Does the Bible condemn same sex marriage?
No. The scattered verses of Scripture that refer to homosexual behavior and desire have sparked many debates in the faith community. It is clear from a reading of all such passages that long-term, committed, monogamous relationships between people of the same gender was not a concept at the time of the writing of Scripture.
Does the United Methodist Discipline condemn homosexuality, or consider homosexuality a sin?
The Book of Discipline, our United Methodist book of polity, states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Since this language was adopted in 1984, there have been many attempts at each General Conference to remove it. Members of the UMC are deeply divided over this issue. This is difficult for many to reconcile with other statements in the Discipline that says that “all persons are of sacred worth.” The Discipline’s language also restricts gay and lesbian clergy, all clergy from presiding at same-sex weddings, and such weddings from taking place in a UMC sanctuary. http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1324
Is marriage in the Church the right of every member?
No. Sometimes pastors will determine through pre-marital counseling that a couple is not ready to be married and will deny the request to perform a marriage ceremony. It is at their discretion.
What is a Reconciling Congregation?
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church. A Reconciling Congregation is a United Methodist Church that adopts a public statement declaring itself to be open and affirming of LGBTQ people, registers their statement with an annual contribution to the RMN, and holds an annual Reconciling Worship Celebration. GSUMC became a reconciling congregation in October 2009. www.rmnetwork.org