Two United Methodist pastors in Michigan will not go to trial for officiating at same-sex unions, Bishop Deborah Kiesey announced.
Kiesey would not comment on terms of the just resolution, citing the denomination’s lawbook that complaint procedures are private and confidential. The complainants have not made their identities public and have not issued statements about the decision.
Kiesey, leader of the Michigan Area which includes the Detroit and West Michigan conferences, said the conferences are exploring the possibility of holding discussions based on the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” model used in South Africa following the end of apartheid.
The Rev. Mike Tupper, who officiated at his daughter’s same-sex wedding, and the Rev. Ed Rowe, who officiated at the wedding of two of his church members, said they were thankful for Kiesey’s decision.
“I’m thankful to Bishop Kiesey for choosing to give precedence to Jesus’ law of love and inclusion,” Tupper said. “I appreciate the many frank discussions we had about the full inclusion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in our churches—especially since the topic threatens to divide our denomination.”
Tupper and Rowe will be at a public celebration of the decision planned Nov. 12 at University United Methodist Church in East Lansing, Michigan.
On Nov. 7, the United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a statement calling for prayer about the differences in the church concerning human sexuality.
Last month, Philadelphia area Bishop Peggy Johnson announced a resolution of a complaint filed against 36 United Methodist pastors who officiated at a same-sex union in Arch Street United Methodist Church. Part of that agreement also calls for meetings between United Methodists on both sides of the issue.
This announcement also comes on the heels of a Judicial Council decision Oct. 27 that the Rev. Frank Schaefer will remain a clergyman in the denomination. Schaefer was charged for officiating at his son’s same sex wedding in 2013 and found guilty by a church trial. After several twists and turns, Schaefer was frocked, defrocked and re-refrocked.
Rowe said after reading about the trial and defrocking of Schaefer that the same-sex couple whose wedding he officiated said they were considering leaving the church. He said officiating at their wedding was a “God-sent” opportunity to keep them from leaving.
“If we allow it, God can flow through us to use this just resolution process and others like it to contribute to the transformation of the church beyond our wildest imagination. Not to take that opportunity would be in itself a cause for harm,” Rowe said.
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].