Post submitted by Diane Martin, HRC Religion and Faith Assistant

On Monday, United Methodist Bishop Martin McLee not only joined a growing number of United Methodist Church (UMC) bishops speaking out in opposition to UMC’s laws against LGBTQ members, but he also became the first active bishop to declare that he will no longer prosecute pastors for ministering to LGBTQ people: “I call for and commit to cessation of trials,” which, he later explained, “continue the harm brought upon our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” 

Bishop McLee made this declaration during a press conference in which he announced that he was dropping UMC’s case against Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, whom the Church originally charged for officiating his own son’s same-sex wedding.  Bishop McLee also took the opportunity to invite Dr. Ogletree to participate in a forum, explaining why he saw his actions as consistent with UMC teaching. 

In a high-profile church trial in December, former Pennsylvania pastor Frank Schaefer was defrocked for similarly presiding at his son’s same-sex wedding ceremony, causing many in the UMC community to openly question, and in some cases defy United Methodist law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. 

While the laity have been outspoken against the Church’s decision, Bishop McLee is one of very few leaders to take a stance in opposition.  In response to Bishop McLee’s statements, Dr. Ogletree expressed his gratitude as well as his hope for a more inclusive UMC community: “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.”

Rev. Ogletree officiated his son’s wedding in October 2012 and after declining the Church’s request that he denounce his actions and promise to never perform another same-sex wedding, Ogletree was formally charged in January 2014. 

HRC’s Religion and Faith Program seeks to engage all faith traditions in a deeper dialogue on questions of fairness and equality for LGBT Americans. Interested in keeping up with news like this? Subscribe to HRC’s Religion & Faith Newsletter now.

Filed under: Marriage, Religion & Faith

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