Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and anti-Church UM's Rejoice Over Loopholes That Allow Homosexually Active Clergy Despite Church Law Ban
CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
Friday, May 31, 2002 Gay Methodist pastor will keep pulpit, church panel rules By Ruth Schubert seattle Post-intelligencer Reporter http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/72715_minister31.shtml
"This gives tremendous encouragement to lesbians, gays,
bisexuals, transsexuals in the ministry who realize that if they won't
testify against themselves, it will be very hard to make charges against
them stick," [The Rev. Paul Beeman, a spokesman for the Reconciling
Ministries Network in Washington state] said.
"While my story was a 'happy ending,' there are still clergy who live within the closet," he Rev. Mark Edward Williams said. "I hope my success is the first step toward full acceptance within the United Methodist Church."
Thursday, May 30, 2002 Statement from Amory Peck, national co-spokesperson for Affirmation:
"Many LGBT persons are lifelong members of The United Methodist Church. They were nurtured by their congregations, baptized into the faith, and some heard a calling to ministry."
"Today's decision allowing Mark to continue as pastor brings a sense of hope to LGBT clergy throughout the country. However, there is much work still to be done to eliminate the prohibitions against the ordination of homosexuals from the official language of the church. We will continue to strive to make the United Methodist Church a place of inclusion and justice for all persons."
From the Pacific NorthWest Reconciling Ministries Network
May 30, 2001
PNW COMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATION FINDS "NO REASONABLE CAUSE" TO CHARGE REV. MARK EDWARD WILLIAMS
SEATTLE, Finding insufficient evidence to sustain complaints against the Rev. Mark Edward Williams, pastor of Seattle's Woodland Park United Methodist Church, the Annual Conference Committee on Investigation today dropped all charges against him.
Williams is now free to continue his career as an ordained United Methodist minister.
In the hearing, two arguments were advanced by the Rev. David Vergin, counsel for Williams. One was that the practice of homosexuality remains undefined by the denomination. The other was that no evidence was offered against Williams regarding the charge of practices incompatible with Christian teaching. The committee apparently accepted both arguments.
After Williams publicly "came out" as a gay man following a report to his Annual Conference in Tacoma last June, Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle said he felt compelled to file an official complaint, charging him with "practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching."
Meeting in Seattle today, the nine-member committee of seven clergy and two lay members took only two hours to render its unanimous finding. In a terse statement the committee chairperson, the Rev. Patricia Simpson of Seattle, declared: "The committee found there was not reasonable cause to forward the matter for a church trial." Thus, "the Committee on Investigation decided to dismiss a complaint against him." The committee report now ends any judicial procedure against the popular minister, and he is free to continue as pastor of the Woodland Park Church.
His Woodland Park congregation is rejoicing. Many church members had spent the morning in a prayer vigil at the church, praying for his exoneration.
Maggie Brown, chair of the congregation's Committee on Pastor-Parish Relations, said Williams' ministry has been both deeply spiritual and truly uniting for the mid-sized congregation. "We are deeply pleased and relieved that we will be able to continue as the beneficiaries of his effective ministry here at Woodland Park Church," she said. "I wish every church could have a pastor as fine as ours."
Amory Peck, of Bellingham, coordinator of the unofficial Pacific Northwest United Methodist Reconciling Ministries Network, exuded, "Today we are rejoicing as Mark Williams is freed to continue his calling. Now we look forward to working within this invigorated spirit of justice and reconciliation in the United Methodist Church."
She noted that both lay and clergy members of the Reconciling Ministries Network throughout Washington State have stood with Williams during the past year, as he was threatened with expulsion from the ministry.
"We surrounded him in his grief and supported him when he was denied his pastoral appointment one year ago. Recently we gathered with the parishioners of Woodland Park Church when Mark faced a hearing before the national Judicial Council (the denomination's supreme court), and we lamented the first council decision which called for him to be suspended. We rejoiced at the revised judicial decision which has allowed Mark's continued ministry while his case was pending.
"Further," said Ms. Peck, "we applauded Bishop Elias Galvan's affirmation of Mark's effective ministry by reinstating him as pastor of Woodland Park Church."
The Seattle decision will have a positive impact on thousands of United Methodist clergy nationwide, according to the Rev. Paul Beeman, Des Moines, spokesperson for the Washington State Reconciling Ministries Network.
He explained that the Judicial Council earlier ruled that, for evidence against suspected homosexuals to be sufficient, Investigating Committees must be informed of the clergy's most intimate sexual activities--but only by those suspected of practicing homosexual behavior. He noted that few if any clergy may be willing to answer such inappropriate questions.
Beeman said the nationwide Reconciling Ministries Network members hope that any and all United Methodist clergy who may be lesbian or gay might now feel freer than ever to be open and honest about who they really are as Christians and as clergy.
Thanks to the courage and perseverance of Mark Williams and his case, Beeman said that Reconciling Ministries Network members fervently hope that congregations across America will recognize increasingly the spiritual strength and leadership ability of committed gay and lesbian Christians in the ministry.
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