In October 2012, the Reverend Thomas Ogletree performed the marriage ceremony for his son, Thomas Rigby Ogletree. Trouble was, Thomas the younger was marrying another man, Nicholas Haddad, and what started out as a deeply personal act, turned into a full-blown church scandal. [See my post HERE]
After the Reverend Randall Paige saw the Ogletree-Haddad wedding announcement in the New York Times, he organized other members of the Methodist clergy to file a complaint against the Reverend Ogletree [right].
As a result, back in May 2013, the United Methodist Church [UMC] condemned Ogletree’s participation in the ceremony, calling it a public display of ecclesiastical disobedience since the church does not allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Ogletree faced a possible canonical trial for his actions.
This week, the UMC dropped its case against Ogletree. Bishop Martin McLee [left] — who leads the UMC's New York district, which covers over 400 churches in New York and Connecticut — called on all UMC church officials to stop prosecuting pastors for officiating at same-sex ceremonies. McLee also said he hoped his actions in dropping the case might spur a dialogue between church members, clergy, and LGBT parishioners on how to move forward.
Ogletree was happy with the bishop’s decision, but was "even more grateful" that McLee promised not to prosecute similar cases, and his decision is considered a victory for Methodists who have defied an old church law that considers homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."
Conservative Methodists continue to urge church leaders to discipline clergy who preside at gay weddings, and the Reverend Paige announced that he was "dismayed by the settlement:"
"It makes no acknowledgement of the breaking of our clergy covenant. There are no consequences for such violation. The impact of this settlement today will be that faithful United Methodists who support the church's teachings will feel ignored and will face their own crisis of conscience, as to whether they can continue to support a church that will not abide by its own rules."
Funny, though, with support for marriage equality nearing the 60% mark, I think its people like Paige who will be left behind in their homophobia and intolerance, while the rest of the UMC — which has some 12 million members worldwide — moves forward.
The better news is that the dismissal of the case against Ogletree comes entirely without conditions; the settlement does not require Ogletree to say he'll never conduct another same-sex wedding, or say that what he did was wrong. In addition, Bishop McLee has asked Ogletree to participate in a public forum later this year that will include discussion of how the church deals with sexuality.
And the march goes on … even in the churches.