Complaints Dismissed Against OK Absentia Participants in Mass Lesbian Wedding - They Just Expressed An Opinion
Below is a copy of the text of a letter received by Jake Barker who brought charges against the clergy participants in absentia in the mass lesbian wedding ceremony performed in Sacrament January 16, 1999 in disobedience to the Church's Book of Discipline.
|Mr. Jake P. Barker
Rt. 4 Box 951A
Eufaula, OK 74432
Dear Mr. Barker:
Regarding your complaints against Reverend Leslie Penrose and Reverend Susan Ross, permit us to offer this single response since both complaints are identical and both pastors have answered identically to our inquiries.
In our supervisory inquiries with the two clergy, each stated that she was not in attendance at the homosexual covenant service conducted in California on January 16, 1999. Of course this fact would negate the necessity for a formal complaint, for to officiate at a worship service in The United Methodist Church, the clergyperson must be physically present with the congregation and actively leading the ritual.
Your complaint may stem from the fact that Reverend Penrose and Reverend Ross both signed a statement of support for the homosexual union and their names were listed as "officiants in absentia". However the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church makes no provision for "officiants in absentia", so we can only interpret their signatures as expressions of personal opinion.
As you know, in our United Methodist tradition, individual clergy and laity have the privilege of expressing personal conscience, even if that conscience is contrary to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. However, clergy do not have the right to act or behave contrary to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church as voted by the General Conference. This distinction between personal conscience and personal behavior is honored, out of respect for individuals and trust in God's Spirit to guide the church. Since Reverend Penrose and Reverend Ross were expressing their personal opinion on the homosexual union, rather than officiating at the ceremony, it seems reasonable to conclude that, while disagreeing with the church, they were not disobeying its order and discipline.
It is our desire to reach such a resolution as to reconcile the ministries of both you and these two clergy. If you desire to meet with us, together with Reverend Penrose and Reverend Ross, to discuss this proposed resolution, please feel free to request this in writing. We would be glad to arrange a meeting.
If we do not receive such written request, we will assume that you agree to withdraw the complaints and to thereby resolve the matter.
Paul Bowles, Tulsa District Superintendant
Grayson Lucky, Stillwater District Superintendant
Copy: Bishop Bruce Blake
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