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UPDATE: Trial postponed for theologian who officiated at son’s wedding

Editor’s note:  This story was updated Feb. 10 after a postponement of the trial was announced and more details were confirmed.

By Heather Hahn and Kathy Gilbert*

A United Methodist theologian and retired elder in the New York Annual (regional) Conference, who had been scheduled to face a church trial in a month for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son, is now awaiting a new trial date.

Thomas Ogletree 290x435 UPDATE: Trial postponed for theologian who officiated at son’s wedding

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree. Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Cooney.

The trial of the Rev. Thomas Ogletree was initially scheduled for March 10 at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Conn. Retired Bishop S. Clifton Ives, the presiding officer or the equivalent of a judge, postponed the trial date Feb. 10.  No new date has been given.

Ives’ decision followed a joint motion by the counsel for the church, the Rev. Timothy Riss, and the counsel for Ogletree, the Rev. W. Scott Campbell.  In a previous pre-trial meeting, Ives —  after consultation Riss and Campbell — referred the charge to a process seeking just resolution.  More time is needed for this process, said a news release. This news opens the possibility that the case could be concluded without a trial.

Ogletree, a retired seminary dean noted for his work on Christian ethics, presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012. The service took place at the Yale Club in New York City.

Ogletree, 80, is a Yale Divinity School professor emeritus, veteran of the U.S. civil rights movement and lifelong member of the Methodist tradition.  He has served as dean at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn., and the United Methodist-related  Theological School at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Ogletree is declining interview requests at this time.

But, in May, he told United Methodist News Service that as a professor, he rarely has been asked to perform weddings. When his son asked him to officiate, he said he felt “deeply moved.”

He said in a statement released Jan. 17 that “I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son’s request to preside at his wedding.”

“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.’”

The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, since 1972 has stated that all people are of sacred worth but “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Church law says that marriage is to be between a man and a woman and bans United Methodist clergy from performing and churches from hosting “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

If tried and found guilty, Ogletree could face a variety of penalties. The Book of Discipline gives a trial court of 13 clergy — the church equivalent of a jury — a range of choices up to revoking Ogletree’s credentials as United Methodist clergy. However, a trial court also can opt for a lesser penalty.

Voters in the New York Conference repeatedly have approved petitions seeking to change church law on homosexuality, most recently in 2011. In 2013, the conference approved a resolution by Methodists in New Directions that commended United Methodist individuals and congregations “whose bold actions and courageous statements help to provide for the pastoral needs of same-sex couples within The United Methodist Church.”

Complaint process

The Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, a retired pastor, were the New York Conference clergy who filed a complaint against Ogletree after his son’s wedding announcement appeared on Oct. 21, 2012, in The New York Times.

Paige is the president of the Wesley Fellowship, an unofficial evangelical renewal group in the New York Conference. Jacobsen is a board member of the group.

“As we who brought the complaint expressed to Bishop McLee , we take no joy in bringing this complaint,” Paige said.  “We do it in obedience to Christ and the laws of our Church.  His honor, along with the integrity of the entire United Methodist Church is the motive driving this action.”

Ogletree and Paige met face to face in late January 2013 to try to find a just resolution to the dispute and avoid a trial. Paige asked Ogletree to promise never to officiate at such a union again. Ogletree declined.

New York Area Bishop Martin D. McLee informed Ogletree in March that he had referred the case to a church counsel — the equivalent of a prosecutor. The church counsel then determined that there was enough evidence to proceed to trial.

The Book of Discipline says “church trials are to be regarded as an expedient of last resort.”

McLee said in a statement released late Jan. 17 that he still prayed that the complainants and Ogletree could negotiate a just resolution and avoid a trial.

“During this most difficult time in the life of the church, I invite you to be in prayer for the Reverend Dr. Ogletree, the complainants and all who have a vested interest in this matter,” his statement said. “God is still God and that is where our trust and hope lies.”

Ives’ referral of the case for the  just resolution process puts the matter before  McLee again. Under the Book of Discipline, the process is confidential. McLee may use a trained, third-party mediator to help. If a resolution is achieved, a written agreement will be presented to Ives. If no agreement is reached, the matter will be returned to Ives for further action.

Trial preparations

The United Methodist News Service confirmed Feb. 10 that McLee had asked Ives to serve as the trial’s presiding officer and Riss, pastor of Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) United Methodist Church, to serve as the counsel for the church. McLee was not immediately available for comment Feb. 10.

Ives was among 36 retired bishops who signed a 2011 statement urging General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, to end the United Methodist ban on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy. Riss is the  treasurer of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, an unofficial progressive United Methodist group that has advocated for greater inclusion of gays and lesbians.

The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, the vice president and general manager of the unofficial United Methodist evangelical renewal group Good News, serves as an advocate for the clergy who filed the complaint against Ogletree.

“The complainants registered their concerns about the appointment of Rev. Timothy Riss as counsel for the church with Bishop McLee,” Lambrecht said on Feb. 10. “Bishop McLee assured them that Rev. Riss would carry out the responsibilities of the office of counsel with objectivity and integrity, and he refused to reconsider the appointment.  We are hopeful that Rev. Riss will indeed vigorously pursue the goal of accountability with grace, which has been the intention of the complainants all along.  The complainants desire to maintain the covenant unity and polity of The United Methodist Church in a context of deep division.”

After the trial’s postponement, Lambrecht did not yet know whether he and the complainants would be part of the discussions with Riss and Ogletree’s counsel about a potential just resolution.

In an earlier interview, Lambrecht said his hope is that a trial “will accomplish the goal of holding the Rev. Ogletree accountable to the vows he made as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.

Lambrecht served as counsel in the church case against the Rev. Amy DeLong, who  was found guilty of officiating in a same-sex union at a public church trial in June 2011. He also helped Paige and Jacobsen file the complaint against Ogletree.

“We filed this complaint in the spirit of Matthew 18 following Christ’s direction when a brother/sister sins.  We are to go to him asking him to listen.  The goal is restoration; the implicit requirement is repentance,” Paige said.

Methodists in New Directions,  an unofficial New York Conference group that advocates for greater inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in the life of the church, has championed Ogletree’s case and first announced the trial date.

Dorothee Benz, chair of Methodists in New Directions, said after the trial’s postponement, “Tom (Ogletree) has had an official complaint hanging over his head now for 16 months and the phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ certainly comes to mind.”

“But let us hope that justice may yet be won,” she added, “And let us remember that whatever happens in this case, the problem here is not the church trials but the unjust church laws that put pastors on trial for ministering to LGBTQ people.”

Campbell, pastor of Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church in Cambridge, Mass., serves as Ogletree’s counsel. He previously represented DeLong in her 2011 trial.

“I will try to help the jury of 13 people understand the difference between what is legal and what is right,” he said in  a statement on his church’s website. “I will attempt to empower them to make a decision that reflects the true nature of the covenant of the ordained, a covenant that is not held hostage every four years to the whims and prejudices of the General Conference.”

Ogletree told UMNS in May that as retired clergy, it won’t make much difference if he loses his credentials. Both federal law and provisions of United Methodist retirement plans prohibit depriving clergy members of the pension benefits they already have earned.

Lambrecht said that the goal of those filing the complaint is not necessarily to affect Ogletree’s financial standing.

“Our goal is to have a public declaration of accountability, and if Rev. Ogletree were to lose his credentials, it would be a very public statement that his actions were outside of the agreed-upon covenant of United Methodist clergy.”

Widening dispute

Ogletree’s case comes at a time when the church’s debate regarding human sexuality has intensified and more clergy have been willing to defy publicly church law.

He was among more than 1,000 active and retired United Methodist clergy across the United States, who in 2011, signed pledges announcing their willingness to defy the denomination’s ban on officiating at same-gender unions. The New York Conference alone has 218 clergy signers, supported by 1,000 lay signers.

Bishops promised in a letter released Nov. 11, 2011, to uphold church law banning same-gender unions.

Since then, the dispute has become only more public.

Frank Schaefer in the East Pennsylvania Conference was told in December to surrender his credentials after he was found guilty in a church trial of officiating at the 2007 nuptials of his son to another man. After a 30-day suspension, Schaefer said he could not abide by the Book of Discipline “in its entirety because of its discriminatory laws.” He also announced plans to appeal the ruling. The trial and  its aftermath made headlines nationwide.

Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert officiated on Oct. 26, 2013, at the same-sex union of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince, members of Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, Ala. The Council of Bishops has called for a complaint to be filed against Talbert.

A complaint against the Rev. Stephen Heiss, a pastor in the Upper New York Annual (regional) Conference, has been referred to church counsel. Heiss has said he officiated at the same-sex ceremony of his daughter in 2002 and more such unions since New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011.

*Hahn and Gilbert are multimedia reporters for United Methodist News Service. Contact them at (615)742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

111 comments

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  1. Matt

    Okay, is not one quarter of the Wesleyan Quadrangle “Reason”? And is everything written in the Holy Bible to be takes as literal and eternal? Do women in your church still cover their heads? Do you tell the enslaved to obey their masters? Is the context in which Biblical passages relating to sexual immorality were written the same today? I doubt it!
    On the “reason” side of this argument, I bid you to take a close look at human sexuality and recognize it is not simply a male/female dichotomy; it is a continuum. That’s the reality. So how can we, in good conscience, in a spirit of love, discriminate against those who do not fall neatly into either end of the sexual continuum? I dare say that many have appealed to Scripture to enforce discrimination and injustice in the past, and unfortunately continue to do so. I agree with my brothers and sisters who point out that this is but one issue among many that Christians are called to address, but this is a social justice issue that cannot be ignored.

    1. Ruth

      I disagree with you that with “changing cultural acceptance to sin” that the UMC should adopt a new set of “interpretations” to the bible. His Word is as true today as it was then. If you do not believe that, then I would question the sincerity of what you believe. What about other truths set out in scripture? Thou shall not murder? Adultery? Getting drunk? Are those to be interpreted differently with the changing culture? The difference is…..slavery was not called a sin. Homosexuality was called a sin. I think God recognized that slaves were mistreated. Asking a slave to obey their master only shows the amazing love of Christ that would have been in that person that they could continue to show obedience or love towards someone who enslaved them. Thank God society came around and ended slavery, but comparing slavery to homosexuality is an insult to slaves.

      1. John M

        Except that, if one reads the original, and understands the context, homosexuality as it is understood today was never called a sin. Sorry Ruth, you’re just wrong. But even if that were true, you don’t answer the other issues Matt raises…you skip off to things we do all agree are sins…murder, adultery, etc. What about eating shellfish, what about women covering their heads, what about wearing mixed fibers, what about stoning disobedient children to death, what about brothers having to marry their sisters-in-law if their brother dies? Do you ascribe to, and obey all of these laws and commandments?

        1. ryan

          I have read the original or as close as to the original as we have. I am educated in both Hebrew and Koine Greek, so I have read many of the passages dealing with human sexuality in the original languages. I am a bit baffled by your suggestion that they don’t deal with homosexuality as sin. In fact, the Bible is clear, OT and NT, Law and Gospel with the fact that the only right and Holy use of the God given gift of sexuality is within the confines of a one man, one woman covenanted marriage. This is is true when Jesus proclaims that not only is adultery a sin, but lustful looking. Far from making the law less strident, Jesus makes it more so. He clearly teaches that the only right time for the use of sexuality is within the marriage of one man and one woman as he quotes Genesis and Adam and Eve.
          Homosexuality is adultery in essence because it is the use of sexuality outside of marriage.
          Now you quote other purity laws that apply to the Jewish community which the church has long said doesn’t apply to Gentiles. This is true starting in the earliest recordings of Acts and what is and isn’t something that applies to Gentiles. I really don’t get your references, they have been dealt with biblically even.
          Matt, also seems to intimate, as do you that humans are growing more intelligent and know more about things like human sexuality. This is not only incongruent with an understanding of the Fall and how sin is progressive from that moment, but also is contrary to what science has learned which is that the human IQ is lowering over time, not getting higher.

        2. Ruth

          John M, many of the issues you address are laws that were given under the old covenant, before Jesus died for our sins. After Jesus died, we were also no longer require to atone for our sins by slaughtering lambs, since he paid the ultimate price (in regards to wearing mixed fibers, etc.) The new testament STILL refers to homosexuality as a sin, even under the new covenant established through Christ along with adultery, lust and host of other sexual sins. Those items you do mention, glutiny for example, are still a sin, it just has less consequences than murder. It does not mean that glutiny, lust or any of those self serving (non-other people hurting) sins are no longer sins. All sin is equal in that in separates us from God, but NOT all sin has the same consequence. Murder = death penalty, Glutiny = diabetes and big waisteline. Homesexuality DOES have other consequences, like gay men (who are 1.7% of the U.S. population) according to the CDC account for 68% of all syphilis cases. God loves us and we have to trust that any rules he gives us are for our own good and the good of society. If you think you know better, then go ahead, but please start your own religion/church though. I wish folks would not try to change the bible.

  2. Ruth

    It is the churches job to LOVE and accept everyone. It is not the churches job to bless or support sin. The man could have said, “I love you son, but we disagree on the biblical teachings of homosexuality. I can attend your wedding and I will give you a gift, but the UMC church does not allow for this. You will have to have another person bless the union.” Maybe the family could have read a poem, or participated in a way that made his son feel loved, without throwing the church into his personal issue. In my minds eye, it is no different than blessing a couple that wants to ” just live together without marriage” or blessing a “plural marriage”. Sin is sin. When the church fails to recognize that, they do a huge diservice to their members. Honestly, when a homosexual comes to church they should be loved by the congregation like anyone. (their sin is not loved…THEY ARE LOVED)…I know some Christians who have made a choice to change their lifestyle (gay) to become celebate, etc. whatever. They recognized that the bible calls homosexuality sin, the same way it calls adultery or drunkeness or any other behavior that harms our lives sin. Is the church forgetting that by allowing/accepting the sin over the person, and by not speaking truth into the lives of those they love, they deceive and harm those they purport to help? There is a reason that homosexuals have a higher risk of STD’s, AIDS, etc. The lifestyle is not healthy (DARE I SAY IT). The reason God puts “rules” into the bible is not becuase he is mean, unjust, unfair, or out-dated in his social views. God put together a book to live by becuase he truly knows what is best for us. Sexual sin (whether straight or gay) causes all sorts of emotional hurts, physical risk and can bring families pain. God knows that when we drink too much, we can make poor choices, hurt people or not provide for our families. He doesn’t tell us not to become a drunkard becuase God dislikes fun. He dislikes the pain that the behavior would cause. It would be like the church supporting/condoning alcholism. You would still love the person, but encourage them to make healthier choices.

  3. mattschaeffer2

    I cannot agree with what you that homosexual marriage is a sin; two individuals who love one another and wish to consecrate their love before God and the Church is NOT a sin. It is my belief that to deny anyone the freedom to do this IS a sin. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called love others, and loving requires that we do our absolute best to dialogue with others. In my dialogue with gays and lesbians, I have learned a lot. I have learned that they are indeed hurt and confused when others declare them to be “in sin” for something that they consider to be altogether good in God’s eyes. This is not murder. This is not adultery or drunkenness. This is a love between two people. If your reading of the Bible considers this a sin, I urge you to re-examine your beliefs, but frankly I don’t believe that what I write here will have much impact on readers. I believe our church needs to build a dialogue between two clearly opposing constituents and prayerfully move forward in a way that allows all of us to live our lives faithful to our calling. Clearly we don’t all agree now, and if our stance on gay marriage were to change, we would not agree then. Let us pray for Christ’s Church.

    1. Josiah

      @Mattschaeffer2 romans 1

      1. John M

        Paul didn’t write it as a condemnation of homosexuality, but as a criticism of Greek behavior in temple worship. Greeks often incorporated sexual behavior in temple worship. if one actually reads the verse, this not hard to figure out.

        The complete passage describes how a group of Christians left the church, converted to Paganism, and engaged in orgiastic, presumably heterosexual sexual activities. This type of behavior was common among Pagan fertility religions in Rome during Paul’s time. Paul writes that, later, God “gave them over” to something new: homosexual behavior. This implies that they had a heterosexual orientation and had engaged only in heterosexual sex throughout their lifetime. God influenced them in some way to engage in homosexual orgies. This was, for them, an unnatural, and thus sinful, activity.

        Paul criticized them because they were engaged in sexual activity which was unnatural for them. For a person with a heterosexual orientation, homosexual behavior is “shameful,” “unnatural,” “indecent,” and a “perversion.” The passage in Romans is not a condemnation of homosexual behavior. Rather, it disapproves of sexual behavior that is against a person’s basic nature (i.e. homosexual behaviors by people whose orientation is heterosexual).

        I’d also remind you, Josiah, that right after that verse, Paul wrote, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”

      2. sam

        Mark 12:28-31

        (is this the part where we quote scripture at each other?)

  4. Ruth

    Mattschaffer2, what is your scriptural basis for declaring that homosexual behavior is NOT a sin? I understand your feelings on the issue, but I don’t think the church should have to change their beliefs based on the “feelings” of a few. The church has to follow the word of God. You can love others without supporting/accepting their sin, but supporting them into a healthy lifestyle that includes a relationship with Christ. The church is called to live in this world, but not of this world. This means that Christians might look, act or be a little different than the rest of the world. Sin is what separated Eve and Adam from God and Sin is what separates us from God today and sin is why we need Jesus to reconcile us to God the Father. As soon as we say that some forms of behavior that God calls sin in the bible are not sin, we stop helping people who are separated from God by sin and decieve them into thinking they do not need God to help them with this sin, because it is okay. When we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9. The key here is confession/repentance. How are we to confess/repent if we do not acknowledge that our behavior is sinful? The Greek word for repentance ‘Metanoeo’ which literally means to “change your behavior” or “turn away from”. How can the church call homosexuality a sin, as it does in the text of the bible, and then bless an act of marriage, that supports continuance of sin rather than “turning away from” or “Changing of behavior”. I love all people, gay people included. I pray for the blinders of our current society though to stop with the changing of the definitions of sin as described in the bible. You can chose that form of Christianity if you want, but I would not want to be judged for “rewriting” God’s word.

  5. Dave Chnupa

    I pray that this “Trial” will be seen by history as a “trial” as the UMC tries to live Our Life Together. The world changer before Christ was born, changed during His life, and continues to change. Let’s not lose focus on Christ’s message of love by forcing literal reading-in of the Bible’s meaning to each individual. God’s message of love is to and for everyone.

  6. Carol

    First of all, I am not clergy, but I am a parent of four sons, one of whom has chosen a partner rather than a wife. I do not understand why Paige would follow Christ’s admonition against brother/sister sins and NOT follow his directive to LOVE ONE ANOTHER? Does he really think that “punishing” Ogletree will bring others to Christ or Methodism? If Christ can accept “sinners” I suppose we can (or should be able to, also).
    I AM, PERSONALLY, APPALLED that the Methodist church would even consider “punishing” this father who LOVES his son as GOD LOVES US.

    1. Jane L. Bonner

      People keep talking about how a parent is like God for blessing the unnatural union of their child with another of the same gender. This parent affirms this activity which Scripture identifies as a sinful expression of their sexual nature is characterized as “loving”. As I recall the great act of love God showed was to give his only Begotten Son on the cross so that we, the sinners, might not perish. God, the Father, allowed His Son to die an excruciating (from the word “cross”) death so that we could not only live lives empowered by His Spirit in order to glorify God in our bodies, but in order that we are blessed to spend eternity with him. Why on earth would a parent choose to bless this affront to God’s Creation by affirming sex between two people of the same gender? We are to love each other and part of loving each other is not encouraging sin and especially sin which is harmful, dangerous, and damaging to human society, as biology and history so instructs. We are to be gracious to those caught in sin, but not to enable and encourage it.

  7. Jennifer Charles

    For 40 years the majority of United Methodists have made it clear that we are not interested in amending the Bible’s list of sexual sins. Those who continue to disagree with this stand should seek out those who agree with them and worship together. I am tired of the ‘in your face’ tactics & attitudes of those who want to re-write the Bible. I do not agree nor do I have to agree. This does not mean that I hate anyone. I respect their right to hold and act upon their beliefs but I do not have to bless or condone it. Those who are ordained under the UMC Book of Discipline should be ready to uphold it. If in good conscious they cannot then they should withdraw from the UMC and seek or create a denomination in accordance with their beliefs.

    1. ruth

      I’ve yet to find a Christ-following church that does not believe that sin is what separates us from God. Sin is what separated Adam and Eve from God in the garden when the serpent tempted Eve and she disobeyed God. Sin is why Jesus died on the cross. Our sin is why we need Jesus. If you are a Christian, you can likely agree with me that without sin, Adam and Eve could have gone on living in Paradise and it would not have been necessary to murder the only blameless, innocent man to have ever lived. Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – NIV. None of us can know the full measure of what Jesus experienced on the cross. We do know that he must have known it was going to be bad, since at the last minute, he asks God the Father, if there is another way, but then goes on to acknowledge his obedience and willingness to continue, “yet not my will; but yours be done.” As a young Christian, I always assumed that in this text, Christ was referring to the humiliation of dying amongst a group of criminals, the potential fear of death and great physical pain that He was about to experience hanging with nail pierced hands and feet, wearing a crown of thorns and being pierced in his side.
      Several years ago at a bible study, a greater depth to this passage was presented. Yes, Jesus did not want to experience the above mentioned scenario, but it seems be a disservice to this passage to exclude or ignore the obvious spiritual element and reasons for Him to ask the Father to “take this cup from me.” Jesus, who had never sinned a day in his life, had to experience sin for the first time. Jesus, who had a very deep connection with God the Father, was to be separated from Him for a period of time, left alone and isolated. While alone, he had to experience all of sin for all of humanity in atonement for our sins. I cannot even imagine the weight of that experience. There is no experience that He does not understand and no experience that He did not already pay for or carry for us on the cross. Jesus knows what it is like to feel the rage of a murderer. He knows the terror of the murder victim. He understands greed, lust, anger, and pain. He is the only one who knows it all. He is the only one who has paid for it all. When you accept the gift of Christ, you are literally separating yourself from the darkness of sin and exchanging that burden for the light of righteousness. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” In this instance, darkness is a reference to the isolation that a non-believer has from the father as a result of our inherited sinful nature. The light of life is the new covenant that a Christian lives under, no longer in isolation, but in the bright light of the new righteousness gifted to us through Jesus.
      I think that most Christians would agree that the main purpose of the church is to bring individuals into right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Once a Christian enters into a relationship with Christ and comes to know Him through belief in his death and resurrection, the natural progression is to become a disciple or a follower of Christ. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. “ Mt 28:19-20 – NIV. I realize that the church is not homogenous in its method of making and nurturing disciples, with many churches placing emphasis in different areas of service and growth. Ultimately, we are all trying to become like Jesus. It may sound cliché, but there is a reason so many people in the church ask, “What would Jesus do?” Ultimately, we are all trying to become like Him. The word disciple in Greek, mathetes, can be translated, “apprentice” or “student”. Imagine Jesus is a master teacher in any subject. How do you become like your teacher? I think we imitate them. We are to become imitators of Christ. Obviously, I will never be Christ. That should not stop me from spending the rest of my life trying to become more like him.
      Homosexuality is really no different than any other sin. Since all sin separates us from God, any sinful lifestyle, will keep us from the experiencing the fullness available to us when we are walking in the light of life. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” 2 Sam 22:29. Salvation is not a solitary event in which the recipient of this gift never has to deal with darkness or sin ever again. If no follow up or growth was required on behalf of the follower of Christ, we would have no need for repentance, since after all, all of my sins were taken care of on the Cross. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Lk 3:8 – NIV. I don’t doubt that a person can come into relationship with Christ and still continue to struggle with sin. However, without repentance, it is unlikely that this individual will produce fruit. What is repentance? The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, refers to a change of mind and heart. It is an intentional change in direction. In today’s word’s, it is a 180 degree turn towards God. In other words, repentance does not only involve a change in thoughts and attitude, but a change in behavior when necessary. The word repent and repentance are mentioned over 100 times in the bible. I think this was an important concept to God. So what if I don’t produce fruit? Is that important? “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Jn 15:1-2 – NIV. I don’t want to be on the branch that gets cut off from God’s tree, do you? That sounds terrible. Under the Chapter in Galatians called “Freedom in Christ” Paul describes the fruit of the spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23 NIV. “Freedom” in Christ ironically does not come from living your life in the moment and doing whatever feels good. Freedom in Christ comes from submitting your will and sinful nature over to him through repentance.
      What does the bible say about homosexuality? “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.” Lev. 18:22. – NLT. I’m not picking on homosexuals. Many other behaviors are considered sinful in nature according to the Word of God. I am addressing a behavior that some in today’s church, have decided to re-define as no longer sinful. When individuals or churches chose to redefine the very behaviors that keep us in darkness and bearing no fruit, they are doing a great disservice to those they are supposed to be nurturing in discipleship. Since the kingdom of Heaven has many upside down parallels, and submission of your will and sin = freedom in Christ. The opposite can be said for those who refuse to submit to the will of God. Although they think they are free, they really remain in bondage or darkness.

    2. John M

      Uh, let’s see there Jennifer…there was time when we did that…in regards to slavery. How’d that work out for the Methodist Church, and where did we finally wind up anyways? How about we come to some modern understanding of the Bible, and follow Micah 6:8 for a change?

  8. Chris - Member of Church Council

    The following is the official response to Clergy Trials by Christ Church Troy UNYAC as presented to Bishop Mark Webb on Monday 1/27/2014. Please forgive the length.

    An Open Letter To:
    The Reverend Bishop Mark Webb
    Upper New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

    When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, he replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” He stated this without conditions.

    As a Methodist congregation on a journey together with Christ – questioning, serving and growing – we can no more place a condition on Christ’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” than Christ did. As we would not deny ourselves love, we will not deny it to our neighbor. Thus, we recognize the honor and dignity of our neighbor without condition. Because we would love our neighbor as Christ commanded, we cannot discriminate against our neighbor because of our neighbor’s faith, age, marital status, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, economic condition, or physical or mental ability, for to do so would deny the dignity and honor of the whole of the Body of Christ.

    With regard to the announced pending trial of the Rev. Steve Heiss for officiating at same gender weddings, including that of his own daughter in July of 2002, and in keeping with Christ’s commandment to love, we cannot in good conscience support with our time, talents or treasures, the Upper New York Annual Conference’s prosecution of Rev. Heiss. We cannot be part of an action that demeans Rev. Heiss, as well as the United Methodist Church, for demonstrating his unconditional love and pastoral leadership in ministering to his daughter and other members of the Body of Christ.

    We affirm and uphold Rev. Heiss, as well as every other Minister and Bishop who have demonstrated the moral courage to publicly reject the institutional discrimination and bigotry of the United Methodist Church in matters of sexual orientation. We support those members of the Clergy who have gone beyond the safe haven of verbal and written protest. Through their public actions and their courage they are demonstrating true leadership, and becoming part of a history replete with individuals who chose to risk security or position by challenging institutional injustices.

    We believe this and every like prosecution fails to reflect the love and acceptance which are the foundations of our Church, reflects poorly on us to the communities around us, and is manifestly contrary to The United Methodist Church’s public proclamation that it is a Church of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.”

    So that we may continue to properly honor our financial obligations to the Conference, but not participate in the funding of the prosecution of Rev. Heiss, effective immediately we will withhold $100.00 per month of our Ministry shares apportionment payments to the Conference. Having determined that these funds represent our proportional share of the cost of the prosecution of Rev. Heiss, they will be used instead to further our commitment to end discrimination in the Conference. We will continue to withhold $100.00 per month until the conclusion of the prosecution of Rev. Steve Heiss and all possible appeals. We note for you that our congregation historically has paid 100% of its Ministry Shares; we do not take this action lightly.

    Bishop Webb, you and the Cabinet are in our prayers. We pray for wisdom and for grace as you lead this Conference in being God’s love in this world, specifically in Upper New York.

    We call on you now to lead the Conference in affirming Christ’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, and ending the discrimination and bigotry that are an affront to the dignity of the Body of Christ and the basic civil and legal rights of same sex couples who wish to marry in the church.

    Bishop Webb, we stand behind you and encourage you to take up the cross and bear witness to Christ’s love through action, and to publicly renounce the Church’s institutionalized marginalization of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. We ask you to lead the Church in the cessation of all such trials around this issue that are so divisive.

    We ask you, Bishop Webb: do you support or reject Christ’s commandment to love, without condition?

    _______________________________________________________________________
    • Affirmed by unanimous consent of Church Council on January 16, 2014

    • Presented to and accepted by the congregation of Christ Church United Methodist at a duly announced Church Conference held on Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 11:45 a.m.

    • Signed Originals delivered to the offices of the Bishop and the Albany District Superintendent January 27, 2104

  9. george chimiiklis

    I’m sorry – if Jesus Christ were alive he would LOL, just before going into the temple to tear it down! Preserve and protect Christ’s Honor? Excuse me – Christ did not live his life to have His honor protected by accusing and trying (hurting) others. He did not say women cover your heads, don’t eat shellfish – all that was Hebrew Law in the Old Testament. Persecuting gays and denying them an equal place in worship and the Sacraments is the True Sin!

    Judge not least ye too shall be judged. Man o man o man!

  10. jeff

    Self avowed practicing homosexuals weren’t denied ordination until 1984. Same sex marriage wasn’t forbidden until 1996. And same sex marriage wasn’t a chargeable offense until sometime after 2000. Conservatives have been on a decades long quest to ban all behavior they find unacceptable. Apparently live and let live is unfamiliar to them. yet war and capital punishment and gambling are not chargeable offenses even though the Book of Discipline calls all of them incompatible with Christian teaching.
    Like it or not, morality is always a consensus derived from society, not the dictates of the church. reason, not prejudice, will have the last word.

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