The United Methodist Church is putting ministry on trial, again.
Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree officiated his son’s same-sex wedding, describing it as one of the most meaningful ritual acts of his life. The church trial has been set for March 10, 2014 at First UMC in Stamford, Conn.
“I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son’s request to preside at his wedding,” explained Ogletree, who is a retired professor and a past dean of both the Yale Divinity School and Drew Theological Seminary. “It is a shame that the church is choosing to prosecute me for this act of love, which is entirely in keeping with my ordination vows to ‘seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people’ and with Methodism’s historic commitment to inclusive ministry embodied in its slogan ‘open hearts, open minds, open doors.’”
In accordance with Biblical Obedience, Ogletree has seen the shape of love embedded in the whole sweep of the Holy Scriptures with eyes of faith. Recognizing the gospel’s tendencies toward inclusion and grace, Ogletree has fulfilled his calling as a United Methodist clergyperson, acted upon the deeper pastoral wisdom contained in the Book of Discipline, and extended himself to his son in self-giving love.
Like so many United Methodist clergy around the country who are embracing Biblical Obedience, Ogletree has courageously looked beyond the dead letter only to behold life-giving Spirit and has reminded us all that faith is much more a disposition of the heart than strict adherence to a set of rules. By doing this, he is an example of faith for all—shining a light on the deeply spiritual nature of pastoral ministry, the spiritual nature of the Christian life, and the deeply spiritual nature of authentic familial love.
“We stand alongside him as he continues his life-long commitment to Biblical Obedience and we celebrate his commitment to the gospel for the transformation of the church and the world,” said Matt Berryman, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network. “His act alongside the acts of many others demonstrate that God is with us all as we work for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of The UMC. We are deeply disappointed that the Church’s response to such an act of unbridled grace and love is an anachronistic juridical procedure culminating in trial rather than an outright celebration that there are Christian leaders whose wisdom and faith enable the effective interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in changing times. Woe unto us when our fear and lack of insight stymie the work of the Holy One for such a time as this.”
This follows on the heals of Rev. Frank Schaefer’s trial, who was defrocked for officiating his son’s wedding of his son. In response, a growing number of clergy and churches have signed the “Altar for All,” a national marriage initiative movement within The UMC. Clergy and churches have made public commitments to officiate same-sex weddings, being obedient to the whole of church law which calls the church to be in ministry with all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons.
In October 2013, Bishop Melvin Talbert officiated at a gay wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, subsequent to which the Council of Bishops directed two of its members to initiate prosecution of Talbert by filing an official complaint.
Rev. Stephen Heiss of the Upper New York Annual Conference has had a complaint against him referred to counsel for the church. Two cases in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference have likewise been referred to counsel.
Ogletree served as a professor and dean over his 50 year career. In addition to authoring books and articles, he wrote a section in the Book of Discipline, the very rulebook under which he is now charged. Ogletree has shown a lifelong commitment to social justice, going back to his involvement with The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee starting in 1959. His first civil disobedience arrest was at a segregated lunch counter with African-American colleagues, including Congressman John Lewis.
To show your support for Ogletree and marriage equality, consider joining Reconciling Ministries Network’s mailing list or sign on to the Altar For All.
. . .
Read this press release online here.