Last month it was Frank Schaefer in Pennsylvania. In March it will be Thomas Ogletree in New York, in the latest trial for the United Methodist Church over the prohibition against performing same-sex marriage ceremonies. Ogletree, a 80-year-old minister, theologian, and former dean of Yale Divinity, will be placed on trial for presiding over the marriage ceremony of his son.
My intention is not to take issue with what is said in the Book of Discipline. The Discipline is very clear in what it states as being both the infraction and the consequences for that infraction. The issue that I have with this process is that the trial is not necessary. There are other means and avenues for disciplining an individual in violation of the church regulations.
Have any of these avenues been sought out? Did anyone stop to think how much more damage this will do to the church at large because we insist on making a public spectacle of what should be a private procedure? Are we so intent on upholding law and order on these issues that we are willing to damage the greater witness of the church?
This is certainly no easy issue to address and there is no black and white answer in every case for how to proceed with the circumstances. There must however be a way to address this without it coming down to an issue of holding the United Methodist Church up before the world as a place of intolerance. The world does not look at us as champions of orthodoxy, under the circumstances the world looks at us as champions of injustice.
I can already hear some of the arguments against this, arguments against the idea of being concerned with the world and what it would or would not think. However this is very myopic thinking. It important that we take that under consideration given that this is our witness to the world every time we ‘stand up for orthodoxy.’
In this case to discipline or not to discipline is not the question. The real question is how. How can this be done to uphold what the apparent majority of United Methodists believe without making the Methodist Church look like a place with close doors, closed hearts, and closed minds?