The United Methodist Church has dropped its case against a retired minister accused of breaking church law by officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding.
A New York bishop decided not to pursue the case on Monday, just a few months after another minister was defrocked for performing a same-sex wedding.
The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, said he’s grateful that he’s not being prosecuted for what he called “an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love.”
“There’s no talk of guilt or wrongdoing or any penalty. It’s just the case goes away, which is a vindication for Tom,” Ogletree’s spokesperson WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.
Ogletree is a former dean of the Yale Divinity School who is noted for his work on Christian ethics. If he’d been tried and found guilty, Ogletree could have been defrocked.
Bishop Martin McLee, who announced the decision, called on church officials to stop prosecuting other pastors for marrying same-sex couples.
“By avoiding a trial we are bringing a conversation to the table where we can be in dialogue on the matter of human sexuality,” McLee told 1010 WINS.
Although pleased to have his case over, Ogletree said he was “even more grateful” that the bishop vowed not to prosecute similar cases in his region, which covers 462 churches in New York and Connecticut.
McLee’s decision is considered a victory for Methodists who have defied a church law proclaiming that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Conservative Methodists have been pressing church leaders to discipline clergy who preside at gay weddings.
Some Methodist clergy filed a complaint against the minister after the wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times. The lead complainant was the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, who said he planned to issue a statement later Monday.
The United Methodist Church, the second-largest U.S. Protestant group, has debated for four decades whether to recognize same-sex relationships. The denomination has more than 12 million members worldwide.