When Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a minister in the United Methodist Church and the retired dean of the Yale Divinity School, presided over the wedding of his son to Nicholas Haddad in 2012, he wasn’t focused on church prohibitions against clergy performing same-sex weddings.
“I actually wasn’t thinking of this as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience,” Ogletree said. “I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”
Unfortunately for Ogletree, that Church was focused on its policy. He was formally charged under canonical law with violating the Methodists’ prohibition on performing same-sex weddings. But now the Church has had a change of heart and is dropping the charges against Ogletree. More than that, for the first time a Church leader is calling on the denomination to abandon its anti-marriage clerical policy altogether.
“Church trials result in harmful polarization and continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” Bishop Martin McLee said in a statement. “The burdensome cost of trials, combine to negate any benefit in the ongoing debate on matters relating to human sexuality.”
“I am grateful that Bishop McLee has withdrawn this case and the church is no longer prosecuting me for an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love,” said Ogletree. “But I am even more grateful that he is vowing not to prosecute others who have been likewise faithful in ministry to LGBTQ people. May our bishop’s commitment to cease such prosecutions be the beginning of the end of the United Methodist Church’s misguided era of discriminating against LGBTQ people.”
Ogletree was not the first Methodist minister to face charges for performing his gay son’s wedding ceremony. Last year, Rev. Frank Schaefer was convicted of violating Church rules for presiding at his son’s wedding. When his bishop in Pennsylvania moved to defrock him, Schaefer was offered another job by a Methodist bishop in California.
The debate is bound to continue while the states-right equivalent of the marriage equality debate plays out in the Church, In the meantime, the Methodists might want to consider something a little less disastrous to their image than trying to oust loving fathers from their midst.