As marriage becomes increasingly accepted as routine in many countries and states, churches are left with the task of devising appropriate responses. In New York, a senior Methodist minister faced with a very personal dimension of the issue, resolved it by personally conducting his own son’s same – sex wedding, in spite of church regulations that forbid these.
While he would not be the first United Methodist minister to face discipline for performing a same-sex wedding, he could well be the one with the highest profile. He is a retired dean of Yale Divinity School, a veteran of the nation’s civil rights struggles and a scholar of the very type of ethical issues he is now confronting.“Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed,” Dr. Ogletree, a native of Birmingham, Ala., said in a courtly Southern drawl over a recent lunch at Yale, where he remains an emeritus professor of theological ethics. “But if you can’t, you break it.”For Dr. Ogletree, the issues are not just academic. He has fully accepted, he said, that two of his five children are gay. His daughter married her partner in Massachusetts, in a non-Methodist ceremony. So when his son asked him last year to officiate at the wedding, he said yes.
The official Methodist position is similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church: “homosexual activities” are seen as sinful, but homosexual people are seen as people of worth, who should be welcomed and included in all church activities. The big difference between the two, is in the nature of church governance. Without the strictly hierarchical power structures of the Catholics, many more Methodists are willing to speak up in opposition to the rules – and a sizeable number have publicly stated their willingness, as a matter of conscience, to ignore the relevant church regulations and conduct same – sex weddings if asked. It is believed that many have done so, without attracting the public attention that Dr Ogletree did.
- Rhode Island bishop warns against attending same-sex wedding ceremonies (rawstory.com)
- North Carolina church stops performing weddings until its pastors can marry all couples (news.queerchurch.com)
- Pastor suspended 20 days for marrying lesbians (miamiherald.typepad.com)