MIND statement on Ogletree prosecution

Distinguished scholar to be tried for officiating at son’s wedding

New York and Guilford, CT, May 5, 2013Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree and Methodists in New Directions (MIND) made public today the fact that Ogletree will be charged and tried in a church trial for officiating at the wedding of his son. Because the wedding, legally performed in New York State, was between two men, Ogletree’s participation in it is barred by church law, which holds that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and explicitly forbids its clergy from performing same-sex marriages or holy union ceremonies.

MIND issued the following statement in conjunction with the announcement:

That Tom Ogletree – ordained minister, distinguished scholar and expert in Christian ethics  – could be brought up on charges for officiating at his own son’s wedding shows just how far off course the United Methodist Church has gone from any effort to live up to its slogan “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” to say nothing of following Jesus’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Tom Ogletree’s action in presiding over his son’s wedding was profoundly personal and quintessentially pastoral. No minister should be required to discriminate against those he or she is charged to care for. The requirement to discriminate imposed by the UMC has created a spiritual crisis for the church and especially for its clergy. This spiritual crisis has now become a crisis of authority for the United Methodist Church, as United Methodists are increasingly choosing to not discriminate over blind loyalty to the Book of Discipline. Tom Ogletree’s act of integrity and pastoral care is but the latest symptom of this growing crisis. Across the country, there are networks of clergy who have publicly committed themselves to extending their ministries to all couples, gay and straight. Here in the New York Annual Conference, there are 210 clergy and 881 lay people who have signed A Covenant of Conscience, pledged to extend their ministries to all couples on an equal basis and pledged to support one another in this commitment. Bishop Melvin Talbert gave voice to this growing movement when he said at the close of General Conference 2012, “The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.”

 Tom Ogletree’s action was entirely consistent with the longstanding opposition of the New York Annual Conference to the UMC’s prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. It is specifically consistent with the conference’s official position that the UMC requirement to discriminate in matters of marriage inhibits appropriate pastoral freedom for pastors to minister to their congregations. Our conference has, as a matter of official record, called on its members to exercise restraint in filing charges against one another for the exercise of such pastoral freedom and has furthermore stated that “those who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the historic expression of the New York Annual Conference at the risk of causing grave harm to LGBT persons, their loved ones, their sisters and brothers in Christ, faithful clergy and the annual conference itself.”

We call on all members of the United Methodist community to act in the same loving, principled way that Tom Ogletree did: to refuse to discriminate, and to refuse to enforce unjust discrimination laws. We call on the counsel for the church to refuse to draw up formal charges and we call on the bishop to refuse to initiate a trial in this case.