Methodist bishop dismisses case against lesbian minister

Contact:  Dorothee Benz, Methodists in New Directions, 718-314-4432

New York, NY, May 5, 2014 – Methodists in New Directions (MIND) announced today that the church complaint against MIND steering committee member Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy accusing her of being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” had been dismissed. Rev. Tweedy received an official letter from Bishop Martin McLee last week notifying her that he was dropping the complaint, thereby declining to pursue formal disciplinary charges against Tweedy, who is an out, married lesbian. The United Methodist Church bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained or serving as ministers. The complaint was filed in March 2013, and following a prescribed attempt to reach a just resolution between the complainant and Rev. Tweedy, the bishop had referred the case to counsel for the church for investigation and possible formal charges. His dismissal of the case followed counsel’s recommendation to drop the case.

Rev. Tweedy made the following statement in response to the news of the dismissal:

In dismissing this case, Bishop McLee has chosen to honor the inclusive and justice-affirming intents of our Book of Discipline over its prejudiced and punitive rules. I have never denied who God created me to be and I have never denied my family. I went through this 14-month ordeal with the same integrity I went through the ordination process with, forthrightly answering questions and not hiding any aspect of my identity or my marriage. If my honesty resulted in my being defined as “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,” I was willing to face those consequences. Bishop McLee’s refusal to seek prosecution offers hope that other LGBTQ seminarians, ordination candidates and ministers in our New York Annual Conference can also live and work openly without fear of losing their jobs and their vocation.

The dismissal of the Tweedy complaint follows the settlement of another high-profile case in the United Methodist Church. In March, Bishop McLee and Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree reached a settlement in the case the church had brought against Ogletree for officiating at his son’s wedding. As part of the resolution of that case, Bishop McLee made a statement in which he declared, “I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.” The agreement was widely hailed as a victory in the long battle to end the UMC’s systemic discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The New York Annual Conference has for decades expressed its official opposition to the UMC’s anti-gay rules. In keeping with its official positions, the conference ordained Rev. Tweedy in 2006. Bishop McLee’s dismissal of the complaint against her is equally faithful to that long history of dissent from the denomination’s exclusionary rules.