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Convicted Pastor Returned To Pulpit By Anti-Church Bishop

(Planet Out) Reverend Gregory Dell was the first United Methodist minister ever to be convicted by a church court for blessing gay and lesbian couples, and the suspension he was punished with is still in force -- but he learned April 18 that he's been reappointed for another year in his former pulpit. The new appointment will begin July 1, when his suspension has expired.

Dell has long served as pastor to Chicago's Broadway United Methodist Church, a congregation with a large gay and lesbian membership. The congregation helped to arrange the job he's held during his suspension as the first-ever paid employee of In All Things Charity, a group lobbying to lift the denomination's ban on its ministers celebrating "homosexual unions" and otherwise advocate for equal treatment for gays and lesbians in the denomination. Dell will be working for that change at next month's United Methodist General Conference; his region has elected him to serve as one of its clergy delegates, but because his suspension will still be in effect then, he cannot vote.

It may seem ironic that Dell's reappointment came from the same man who filed the complaint that resulted in his suspension, Bishop Joseph Sprague, but Sprague also strongly opposes the ban on union ceremonies and believed it was better that the complaint come from him than an anti-gay conservative. Dell told the Chicago Sun-Times that he would continue to bless same-gender couples, and that if the upcoming General Conference did not lift the ban, his reinstatement could prove to be "one of the shortest appointments in Methodist history."

More than 400 resolutions relating to homosexuality have been submitted for consideration at the General Conference.

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