Methodist Minister Risks Punishment After Performing Marriage Ceremony for Gay Son

The United Methodist Church is one of those denominations that (believes it) practices “love the sinner, hate the sin” when it comes to homosexuality. They won’t let “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” into the clergy, they won’t perform gay weddings, and their official guidebook (PDF) says this:

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

Oh, but they’ll totally take money from gay parishioners. That’s perfectly fine.

The New York TimesSharon Otterman has a story in Monday’s paper about Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a retired Methodist minister who performed the marriage of his gay son. Not surprisingly, the church wants him punished:

Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree

“This ceremony is a chargeable offense” under the rules of the church, wrote the ministers, led by the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

But ministers like Mr. Paige believe breaking church law is not the right way to bring about change, said the Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, the vice-president of Good News, a traditionalist Methodist group. “Reverend Ogletree is acting in a way that is injurious to the church, because it fosters confusion in the church about what we stand for,” he said. “And it undermines the whole covenant of accountability that we share with each other as pastors.”

Yes, he’s harming the church by performing a wedding for his son. Evil bastard…

There is an upside to all of this. Rev. Ogletree is retired, so they can’t really do anything to him — It’s not like his congregation’s going to leave him since he’s no longer in the pulpit and he’s no longer drawing an income from the church so even a suspension will have no meaningful impact.

The only punishment they can give him is a spiritual one. And while atheists can brush those off entirely (God’s upset with me? Yeah, I’m over it), it’s likely that Ogletree won’t care either, since he firmly believes what he did is perfectly in line with his faith.

The overarching story in all of this — one that never gets stated outright in the article — is that a man did something kind and decent and wonderful, but he’s being told it’s awful and immoral and worthy of retribution because… Jesus.

I hope he brushes off whatever punishment the church gives him. He did nothing wrong and other ministers would do well to follow his lead. If enough of them did, they could just vote to overturn the idiotic rule (as Methodists do because the Scripture-based rulebook works by majority rule).

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.