Two homosexuals who attend a United Methodist Church (UMC) in Winston-Salem, N.C., have lodged a complaint with Methodist officials against their pastor for not marrying them. Although same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina last month, the UMC, like most Christian denominations, does not permit clergy to perform same-sex weddings or ceremonies.
Green Street United Methodist Church announced the complaint against its senior pastor, Kelly Carpenter, during a press conference Nov. 12. The couple, Kenny Barner and Scott Chappell, say that by refusing to marry them, Carpenter is violating the UMC Book of Discipline’s requirement for pastors to “perform the work of the ministry” and refrain from “gender discrimination.”
The couple’s Oct. 30 complaint stated they had been “victimized by Reverend Carpenter’s adherence to United Methodist Church rules,” and that the denial of a church-ordained marriage had caused “great spiritual harm to us both.”
The move appears to be a coordinated effort by the couple and the pastor to challenge UMC rules. Barner and Chappell are active members of Green Street Church, and Chappell is listed on the church’s website as executive director of one of the church’s social service ministries. Barner is chair of the church’s leadership council, according to United Methodist News Service. The church openly advertises its inclusion of “LGBTQ” members and has, since 2009, been part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a group of activist UMC churches seeking to change church policy toward marriage and ordination of gays.
Carpenter himself supports same-sex marriage. He told United Methodist News Service the complaint was “right on the money” and that he would have co-signed it if he could. UMC rules prevent him from conducting a gay marriage without the risk of discipline. In protest of church policy, Carpenter promised in March 2013 to refrain from performing a heterosexual marriage at the church until the UMC changes its position.
“The national opinion and political culture is rapidly changing on the issue of gay marriage,” Carpenter wrote at the time. “Our United Methodist denomination has failed to lead the way in this struggle for equality, and will once again have to catch up to the culture.”
Green Street Church has a Sunday attendance of around 190 people. It did not immediately return a request for comment.
The complaint, under review by the church’s regional conference, could exacerbate the contentious issue of same-sex marriage within the denomination. The UMC defrocked Pennsylvania Pastor Frank Schaefer last year for performing a same-sex ceremony, but reinstated him last month on a technicality.
Last week, the UMC’s Council of Bishops released a statement recognizing “the divisions that exist” between the church and some bishops regarding “human sexuality.”
Larry Goodpaster, the bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference, said in a statement that he had received the complaint and would review it according to the UMC’s Book of Discipline. “This is now a personnel matter and will be done in confidentiality,” he said. Under church rules, Goodpaster could dismiss the complaint or refer it to a church legal official for further consideration.
“The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” states the UMC’s 2012 Book of Discipline. “Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
The Book of Discipline adds: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” The UMC could only change its stance on homosexuality through its General Conference, which next meets in Portland, Oregon, in 2016.
North Carolina officials began handing out same-sex marriage licenses last month after a federal judge overturned the state’s law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Several magistrates—court-appointed officials authorized to perform marriages and various civil and criminal duties—have stepped down from their posts since then, citing a conflict between same-sex unions and their faith.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: November 17, 2014