Same-sex wedding complaints reach resolution

Translate Page

The North Texas Conference announced just resolutions in complaints against a retired pastor for officiating at a same-gender wedding and another pastor for hosting the wedding. The action averts a church trial.

The Rev. Ben Marshall, who retired in 2000, officiated at the wedding on April 22 at Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas. The Rev. Eric Folkerth, the senior pastor of Northaven, also faced a complaint because his church hosted the ceremony. The couple who wed are members of the congregation.

The Rev. Fred Durham, another retired clergy member, filed the complaints.

In the resolutions, the conference said, Marshall and Folkerth said they are “sorry for any harm … caused to those who disagree with [their] understanding of [their] pastoral calling and covenant.”

Durham, Folkerth and Marshall all declined to comment on the resolutions.

Since 1972, the church has stated in its Book of Discipline that all individuals are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The denomination defines marriage as a covenant “between a man and a woman.” The denomination also bans pastors from officiating and churches from hosting ceremonies that celebrate same-gender unions.

However, in recent years, the denomination has seen a number of United Methodist clergy, including a retired bishop, publicly defy the wedding ban as more countries, including the United States, have legalized same-sex civil marriage.

In 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court made recognition of same-gender marriage the law of the land, Bishop Michael McKee described what was permissible for clergy to do in such wedding ceremonies. Seven other bishops offered similar advice.

General Conference, the denomination’s top policymaking body, last year authorized the formation of the Commission on a Way Forward, which is striving to find a way through the denomination’s impasse around marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy.

In 2016, the North Texas Annual Conference adopted a resolution that stipulated conference members would uphold the Discipline while the commission did its work. The commission’s recommendations will go to the Council of Bishops, who will then present any resulting proposed changes for a vote at a special General Conference in 2019.

A church-trial conviction can result in clergy losing their credentials or lesser penalties. However, the Book of Discipline also calls church trials “an expedient of last resort” and keeps the door open for “a just resolution” through much of the complaint process.

The Discipline states that a just resolution “focuses on repairing any harm to people and communities, achieving real accountability by making things right in so far as possible and bringing healing to all the parties.”

The conference said in its statement, “The successful completion of the just-resolution process in these matters has accomplished these goals.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!

The Revs. Joel Hortiales (center, in blue blazer) and David Farley (to Hortiales' right) join parishioners of the Border Church in Tijuana, Mexico, as they lift their arms skyward beneath the fence that marks the border with the U.S. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Methodists participate in movement to preserve border park

Friends of Friendship Park, led by a United Methodist pastor, continues to defend the preservation of the oceanfront park, located on the border between Mexico and the U.S.
Local Church
High gas prices and inflation are affecting the ministries of United Methodist pastors in the U.S., who are dealing with increased demand at food pantries and other charities, as well as their own paychecks not stretching as far. Original photo by Paul Brennan, courtesy of Pixabay; graphic by Laurens Glass, UM News.

Inflation, gas prices complicate ministries

Rising prices are affecting the ministries of United Methodists, especially rural multi-point charges. Pastors also are finding the buying power of their paychecks shrinking.
Human Rights
A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. United Methodists have varied reactions after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

United Methodists react to end of Roe v. Wade

United Methodists alternately expressed fear and contentment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 24 that holds there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.