A United Methodist pastor in Reynoldsburg is calling for the suspensions of three fellow clergy members in the wake of Saturday's same-sex wedding of a minister in violation of church rules.
The Rev. Jeff Greenway, who heads up the Evangelical Fellowship of West Ohio, wrote in a statement on behalf of the group that the public marriage of the Rev. David Meredith is a "clear act of disobedience to the spirit and letter of our covenant."
"These actions are troubling to us as members of the Evangelical Fellowship of West Ohio who hold a high view of scripture and seek to live out our Wesleyan expression of historic, orthodox Christianity," he wrote, referring to John Wesley, on whose teachings Methodism is based. "It is with great sadness that we write as persons who love the Church, have been devoted to and invested in the United Methodist Church, and who have consistently advocated for unity."
Once formal complaints are submitted, the letter says, the bishop of the West Ohio Conference should suspend Meredith, as well as the pastor who presided over the wedding and the pastor of Broad Street United Methodist Church, where the wedding took place. Meredith served as pastor there from 1997 to 2012, when he took the helm at Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati. The current pastor of the Downtown Church is the Rev. Lou Seipel. While no one presided over the couple's vows, an all-church blessing of the union was led by the Rev. John Girard, who serves as associate pastor at Worthington United Methodist Church.
The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching and says that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" cannot be ordained or appointed to serve the denomination. It further states that ceremonies that celebrate same-sex unions shall not be conducted by United Methodist ministers or in United Methodist churches.
The issues have been debated within the denomination for decades, and Meredith's marriage is just the latest in a line of acts of clergy defiance that have heated up since last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized civil same-sex marriage.
Meredith acknowledges that the wedding was held to openly challenge the church's rules, and it was purposely timed to occur just three days before the denomination's General Convention in Portland, Oregon, where the rules will be debated. The ceremony itself was a statement, rife with comments calling for acceptance of LGBT people and clergy and same-sex marriage. A number of United Methodist clergy members were in attendance at the wedding, and a letter of support signed by 91 clergy members in the West Ohio Conference was released to the news media shortly afterward.
Greenway points out in his letter that documents responding to the marriage also were prepared by the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for LGBT clergy and members, and the United Methodist Centrist Movement, which seeks a "third way" that would allow traditionalists and progressives to stay united in the church.
Greenway says that actions, letters and signatures of support for Meredith's wedding " increase the crisis the United Methodist Church is facing over human sexuality."
"We urge our colleagues to consider the harm that they have done to the fabric of our covenant community and the ways they have undermined the ministry of other elders and deacons with these actions," he wrote. "The various calls for support are clearly a part of a broader, coordinated movement of disobedience which is divisive in and of itself and will foster and exacerbate the division and potential rancor as we enter General Conference."
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Methodists make up the largest Protestant Christian denomination in central Ohio and the U.S. They are not the only faith group whose rules oppose same-sex unions. Among others are the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.