What If the Church Gave a Trial and Nobody Came

Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree, Professor Emeritus of Ethics and former Dean of Yale Divinity School, was recently charged by several New York United Methodist ministers for officiating at the marriage of his gay son. He faces a possible trial in The United Methodist Church (UMC). A recent commentator in the UMC wonders what would happen if  all those involved in a church trial simply didn’t show up. Why even consent to bigotry as people who follow the welcoming gospel of Jesus Christ?

Rev. Kathryn Johnson has served as a United Methodist missionary in the Philippines, the pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Roslindale, MA and the West Roxbury United Methodist Church in West Roxbury, MA. She has also served as Executive Director at the Church Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

She writes in Truth in Progress:

Let this serve as my notice that I intend to totally ignore the unjust laws of the church related to sexual orientation and same-gender weddings from here on out…

In a world where there is so much hurt and pain, I have been honored to stand with couples affirming their covenantal love before God, the community of faith and their families. And to pledge with those present to uphold these couples as they continue to care for and to love one another…

When it comes to sexual orientation being a determining factor in whether one can be ordained, and the gender of two people seeking the blessing of the church when wanting to get married, the ship of “time for study and dialogue” sailed a long time ago. The institutions that support and surround physicians, psychiatrists, teachers, police officers, business people, politicians….have all come to a place of understanding and acceptance. Will the church, those of us who gather in the name of Jesus to be about the business of sharing God’s love, really be the last bastion of rejection and ignorance? …

It’s time to clean the UMC closet. It’s embarrassing every time we wear one of those things out in public. Should someone file a complaint against me I think I’ll just ignore it. Should my bishop call me in to account for my actions (in so far as it relates to performing same-gender weddings) I have a hunch I just won’t go. Should a trial be scheduled, I’ll be hard pressed to participate and would ask my clergy colleagues to refuse to serve on a jury to convict me for breaking a law which is so clearly unjust to begin with. In fact, let’s have a pot luck clergy party. I’ll bring the chocolate chip cookies. Anyone else in? …

I have a strong sense of peace, of realizing that this battle is won. There will still be some casualties, but it is becoming wonderfully clear that the unjust laws of the church have lost their power. United Methodist clergy are declaring in large numbers that they simply will not follow the law when it comes to performing same-gender weddings and living openly in loving, covenanted same-gender relationships.

More Light Presbyterians invites PC(USA) teaching elders who have performed same gender weddings, or who are willing to perform them as the pastoral need arises, to join together and publicly proclaim that witness of pastoral care to the wider church. We also invite individual ruling elders and entire church sessions to affirm this witness. This call to action was inspired by several Commissioner testimonies at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2 thoughts on “What If the Church Gave a Trial and Nobody Came

  1. I just signed the petition to indicate I am “willing to publicly marry same gender couples in my pastoral role.” I think the most important line of the petition reads, “I accept the consequences of this declaration, including the provisions of discipline in our Book of Order.”

    I think that we need to get out of the mindset that opting out of covenantal community is taking the moral high road. We shouldn’t condone ducking trials any more than we should withholding per capita as a matter of conscience. Being willing to stand trial over breaking an unjust law is not “consent[ing] to bigotry;” rather, it is an opportunity to expose bigotry for what it is, and open the door for transformation.

    In the 50-year-old words that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail:

    “In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

    Let us not be segregationists in our own day, dividing the Body of Christ against itself. Instead, let’s show the Book of Order, and the covenant community that it binds together, the highest respect, by submitting to the rules of disciple to which we are subject. That is our best hope for truly transforming the church into a denomination that “reflects God’s heart.”

    Like

  2. I guess the versus about being obedient are completely ignored for your own selfish reasons. No one is forced to be a part of a church denomination. You can freely choose to leave. In choosing to be a part of that denomination, you choose to abide by the Book of Order. I won’t bother to mention Scripture because you choose to disobey that already under the guise of “various interpretations” which is like saying a stop sign can be interpreted as meaning don’t stop.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s