Methodist Minister Could Face Trial for Officiating Gay Son’s Wedding

methodist-weddingAfter officiating the wedding of his son to his partner, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree — a minister in the United Methodist Church and a retired dean of Yale Divinity School — is facing a possible canonical trial.

The Methodist church does not condone homosexuality and considers it “incompatible with Christian teaching“, but it does welcome gay members. However, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” can not be ordained as ministers nor can clergy perform same-sex unions.

Ogletree broke the rules when his son Thomas asked him to preside over his wedding to Nicholas Haddad last fall. Two of Ogletree’s five children are gay but since his daughter married her partner in a non-Methodist ceremony, he jumped at the chance to officiate Thomas’.

“I was inspired,” Dr. Ogletree told The New York Times. “I actually wasn’t thinking of this as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”

Ogletree is not the first Methodist minister to bless a same-sex union, but his prominent position in the Church — he drafted a section of the rule book, the ominous-sounding Book of Discipline — makes him a target. Still, Ogletree believes it is his command of scripture that gives him an advantage.

“..[T]his is an unjust law,” Ogletree told The Times. “Dr. King broke the law. Jesus of Nazareth broke the law; he drove the money changers out of the temple. So you mean you should never break any law, no matter how unjust it is?”

Photo: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

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  • Raquel Santiago

    WOW, they never stop being Hypocrites.

  • PSPoolside

    Seems like an easy call for a loving and well informed father.

  • Kieran

    But if he married Kim Kardashian to her eighth husband….no problemo.

  • hyhybt

    I would not ask a Methodist minister to perform my wedding (were I having one) *especially* if he were a close family member and/or I was pretty sure he’d say yes, precisely because I wouldn’t want to put their ministry, livelihood, and retirement at risk. But it’s heartening to see so many *are* willing, and to know that there are many more who only don’t because it’s not yet allowed.

  • Ken

    “Book of Discipline” might sound ominous, but it is just standard terminology. Every church has rules and guidelines for the comportment of clergy and members, and those internal rules are called the “discipline” of the church. The individual rules are called “laws” or “canons” and they can change. In the United Methodist Church, the Book of Discipline is reissued every two years to reflect changes.

  • D9W

    If Methodist church does not condone homosexuality and considers it “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Make me wonder if Christ considers the Methodist church actions incompatible with Christ’s teachings? Like your to love your neighbor as Christ has loved you? Or Your to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or visit those who are in prison. Hmm? Makes you wonder when they are all worried about things Christ never talked about.

  • Ken

    Every denomination is having an internal conversation about gay people, gay weddings, and gay clergy. The problem with the Methodists is the demographics of the membership of the denomination. Quite a lot of the leadership wants to change, but the membership won’t let them. Whether a denomination is pro-gay, anti-gay, or in transition correlates with their demographics. The Catholic Church is an exception, because it is a rigidly top-down organization.

  • Polaro

    They’re so cute in that marriage announcement its a wonder even the homophobes are angry at their union.

  • Polaro

    On a sad note, my friends were married in their backyard a few years back by a Methodist minister. My friend’s (divorced) sister, who attended the wedding with her hell-spawn children and ate like a pig, then complained to the Bishop that the minister had performed the marriage. The minister was driven out of the church. This shit happens. Interestingly, when my friend demanded to know who complained, the church told him it was his sister. Something about transparency. That part I liked.

  • Ogre Magi


  • hyhybt

    @Ogre Magi: Who says that, and what do they (or you) mean by it

  • DonW

    @Polaro: I was at that wedding! G & S are some of my best friends and such a wonderful couple. I think the minister ended up switching to the far more welcoming United Church of Christ, and it’s their gain.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Back in 1991, I was considering becoming a minister in the United Methodist church (I will not mention the city, state, or Conference… they’re still fuming over this faux pas!). I was a student intern, not yet in Seminary, and the church then was extremely homophobic in the 90s, much more so than today. As I was preparing for my Monday meeting with my mentor, I walked into the Conference Office, happily said “Gooooooood Morning…….,”… you could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. My mentor bid me into his office, and as I walked by the District Superintendent’s office, I thought they were remodeling! There was nothing in the room except for a desk and chair. I inquired, ” What the heck…?” Mentor sat me down and said,”Mmmmmmm, WE have a bit of a problem!.” I said, “What do you mean, WE, Kimo Sabe?” It so happened that said District Superintendent was ARRESTED the Friday night before in a local park… for trying to pick up an undercover police officer! (I presume CUTE… let’s show some class, right?).
    Needless to say, Saturday and Sunday were spent by the office staff cleaning out his office.
    That sort of squelched any plans I ever had to be a Methodist minister, just based on the hypocrisy of the entire affair. So yes, one meets the strangest situations in public bathrooms and local parks. This is just ONE incident in the life of a minister. I could write a book, but it would be heavily redacted!

    United Methodist Church hierarchy = Roman Catholic Church hierarchy = non-Christian!
    They’ll learn when numerous churches leave the fold, which has been happening for some years now. A trickle has become a stream, will become a major break!

  • D9W

    @Dakotahgeo There is a Free Methodist College here in the NW, back in the late 60’s early 70’s, that call dancing: rhythmic movement. It was not until the late 80’s did the college come out of the closet and allow dancing but only square dancing. It took until mid to late 90’s for them to fully come out of the closet and allow dancing for all types of music. They are still not allowed to have a football team, but they can have soccer.

    The only reason I am pointing this hypocrisy out is because it took them this long over the issue of dancing, which really has nothing to do with their faith dogma, how long will it take for them to come on line with the GLBTQ issues?

    But I will note back in the mid 90’s they did come out accepting lesbians at their school. It was a big thing in the school newspaper called the “Hustler”. Yes, “Hustler” and they have been trying for ever to get rid of that name.

    As long as she was celibate she could stay at the school. But that does not mean people who were out did not attend the school. It was quietly known there were a few GLBTQ who were in long term relationships attending the school and were even roommates. It also blew me away that there were a quite of few that I knew that came out after leaving the college too. Sad part there are not many alumni that have grown to a more progressive view point.

  • Dakotahgeo

    @D9W: I belong to an awesome church, but hell, a big majority of churches are drying up because they can’t the members they DO have outta bed Sunday morning… better known as the ‘sack’ religious! Probably more true is that they have moved on to find more loving, accepting, Christian churches because THEY ARE OUT THERE!

  • Dakotahgeo

    @D9W: Lordy, thank you, D9W! I distinctly remember what you are describing as I was in Seattle from 64-65 at LBI! Seems to me the Assembly of God College (Northwestern/Northwest?) had the same strange uptight rules also. What they believe in today I haven’t a clue, but these were the ‘unknown planet’ types at that time.
    I grew up where the minister exclaimed that, if we danced, we were all going to HELL!!! which, when you consider how cold the Dakotas and the northern tier of states were in the winter… was nnnnnnot that bad of a tradeoff! Well, I made it to ‘sainthood’ by going into teaching AND ministry so I must have a one-up goin’ on somewhere, lolol. All the best to you, D9W!

  • hyhybt

    @Dakotahgeo: Now you’ve got me wondering… most churches I’m familiar with start their main Sunday worship service at 11:00, or perhaps 10:30. Those that repeat the service for people with different schedules (or who cannot stand each other’s taste in music) put the other one early, like 8:00 or 8:30. Why not an afternoon one instead, for the late risers? I for one would go much more often if there were, say, a 2:00 option. It wouldn’t sandwich Sunday School like the 8:30 service does, but of course people who sleep too late to get there by 11 aren’t going to Sunday School either.

    (Evening services are a different matter, of course.)

  • D9W

    Problem with ABC-USA(.org) is that they don’t do black and white thinking that churches like Mars Hill church, the Vineyard Movement or the Evangelical Covenant does (though there are a few Evangelical Covenants that have gone over to Welcoming and Affirming, along with a few of the Southern Baptist). Therefore ABC-USA is having a hard time at growth too.

    A lot of the mega churches now are what Scott Peck would call stuck in “second stage” and because of their mentality of handing out pat answers they are attracted by people who need that (‘women need to be pregnant, bare foot and at home’, Men can only speak for God, Men are the masters of their home, Your not to question anything the church says or Associate with anyone outside of your faith). And because of pat answers they are growing with the hand-me-down or less educated religion types.

    I am amused by the change that’s slowly coming about. Even the visiting conservatives relatives walked out of Rick Warren’s church because they though he was too Looney. So I see hope. The brain dead 700 club types are slowly dyeing out and are slowly being replaced by college educated in faith who are more socially conscious and more progressive on GLBTQ issues (though there are the few that try to prove me wrong).

  • Dakotahgeo

    @hyhybt: Right you are! There are so many different variations: Traditional service at 8:30 A, Praise (Modern Worship) service at 9:45 A, Sunday School at 11:15 AM with coffee time between services. Like you, I would much prefer 2 PM Church w/Sunday School following Coffee time. And Saturday night would be super also! However, one big drawback… if one is the Organist and/or choir director as I was for what felt like centuries, Sunday services were insurmountable. I grew up in the old ELC/ELCA today where SS started at 9:30 and the main and only service started at 11! (Something about an “11th” Commandment?). Other denominations have a variety of schedules. They’re all acceptable.

  • Dakotahgeo

    @D9W: On your comment # 18, you are absolutely right! I do think you’re being too generous in the case of the 700 Club… they all look like they’ve been pre-embalmed and then sent to the beautician! Poor Patty R! You rightly discern also that, blessedly, the younger generation are slowly taking over and changing ideas and priorities. In 1974, we wouldn’t have known what gay marriage was. Wasn’t every wedding a happy one? If anyone had told me the changes today were coming, I would have ran away in terror. Such is progress!

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