united methodist church

Liberia’s United Methodists Keep Ban on Divorced Clergy Becoming Bishops

Photo via Julu Swen / UMNS / RNS

Members gather in front of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo via Julu Swen / UMNS / RNS

In the United States, United Methodists are fighting about whether to allow clergy to marry gay couples. In Liberia, divorce is on the line.

The United Methodist Church in Liberia recently voted to uphold a long-standing provision barring divorced clergy from running for the office of the bishop.

The church’s leaders say the ban brings moral credibility to the office and guides the conduct of those who want to be bishop.

Rev. Gil Caldwell, a ‘Foot Soldier’ for Civil Rights, Turns His Eye to LGBT Rights

The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS

The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS

Caldwell was a “foot soldier” in King’s civil rights army, and he finally made it to Durham, where he closed out a social justice conference focused on a newer movement — the effort to secure full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church.

“In some ways there is a possibility that on gay rights and marriage equality, God is speaking more through the judiciary than God is speaking through the United Methodist Church,” Caldwell said in his sermon at a gay-friendly United Methodist church just three miles away from the seminary he said denied him admission.

5 Faith Facts about Hillary Clinton, Social Gospel Methodist to the Core

Photo via Paul Jeffrey / UM Women / Flickr / RNS

Hillary Clinton speaks at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly in 2014. Photo via Paul Jeffrey / UM Women / Flickr / RNS

As she embarks Sunday on her 2016 presidential campaign, one facet of Hillary Clinton, 67, is unchanged across her decades as a lawyer, first lady, senator, and secretary of state: She was, is, and likely always will be a social-justice-focused Methodist.

1) She was shaped by a saying popular among Methodists: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,” says Paul Kengor in his book “ God and Hillary Clinton .”

As a girl, she was part of the guild that cleaned the altar at First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge, Ill. As a teen, she visited inner-city Chicago churches with the youth pastor, Don Jones, her spiritual mentor until his death in 2009. During her husband’s presidency, the first family worshipped at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, and Time magazine described her membership in a bipartisan women’s prayer group organized by evangelicals.

2) Clinton’s been known to carry a Bible in her purse but, she told the 2007 CNN Faith Forum, “advertising” her faith “doesn’t come naturally to me.” Every vote Clinton made as a senator from New York, she said, was “a moral responsibility.” When asked at the forum why she thought God allows suffering, Clinton demurred on theology, then swiftly turned her answer to activism: “The existence of suffering calls us to action.”

The Religious Politics of Abortion Are More Nuanced Than We Think

Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Laura Meyer of Manchester, Ohio, during March for Life in Washington, D.C., in 2013. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Abortion politics are never very far beneath the surface in American life, but every year around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, handed down Jan. 22, 1973, they take center stage.

The annual March for Life on Jan. 22 will draw more than 100,000 demonstrators to Washington. Religious conservatives will march in protest, firm in their belief that abortion should not only be considered a sin, but also a crime.

And religious liberals, though often skeptical about the morality of abortion, will affirm their belief that a decision to end a pregnancy should be left solely to a woman, her doctors, and her conscience.

In the years after Roe v. Wade, most evangelicals came alongside the Roman Catholic Church to oppose legal abortion. Mainline Protestants, at least among denominational elites, strongly advocated for abortion rights, even though mainline clergy are evenly divided on the legality of abortion and do not talk about it much.

But while conservative religious activists at the March for Life and progressive religious leaders supporting the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice do speak for a subset of the people they purport to represent, the absolutism of polarized activist elites betrays the more ambivalent views of rank-and-file Americans.

Frank Schaefer Wins Final Reinstatement with Methodists

Rev. Frank Schaefer.. Photo by Kathy Gilbert/United Methodist News Service/RNS.

Seven years after officiating at the wedding of his gay son, the Rev. Frank Schaefer has been reinstated as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church.

The denomination’s top court upheld a June decision to reinstate Schaefer’s ministerial credentials after a trial court defrocked the Pennsylvania pastor last year.

Schaefer appealed and was reinstated by a vote of a regional court, the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals. At that time, Schaefer said, “I will not refuse ministry to anyone. I will never be silent again. I will always speak for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”

In the ruling released Oct. 27, the church’s top court upheld Schaefer’s appeal while acknowledging “some within the church do not support this outcome today,” according to United Methodist News Service.

Methodists Resolve Gay Marriage Complaint Against 36 Pastors Without a Trial

Clergy and faith leaders gather in support of gay marriage. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service/RNS.

United Methodists in Pennsylvania have agreed to resolve a complaint filed against three dozen clergy who blessed a gay wedding without taking the case to trial.

A complaint was filed against 36 United Methodist pastors who officiated at a Nov. 9, 2013 wedding for two men at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. On Oct. 3, Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson announced that the complaint had been resolved.

The resolution calls for the officiating clergy to acknowledge that they violated rules of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which includes the denomination’s constitution. In return, the complaint will be withdrawn.

“Though I may sympathize with the pastoral concerns of the respondents, it is unacceptable to disregard and disobey the Book of Discipline,” Johnson said. “I pledge that, in future cases where clergy within my jurisdiction officiate or host a same-gender ceremony, any complaints that I receive will be handled swiftly and with significant and appropriate consequences, which may include a trial, involuntary leave of absence without pay, or other significant consequences, in accordance with the Discipline and in consultation with the Board of Ordained ministry and the clergy session of the annual conference.”

United Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer Reinstated on Appeal

United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer serves communion in 2013. Photo: Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service

In a surprising reversal, a Pennsylvania pastor who was defrocked last year for violating United Methodist law after he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding has been reinstated.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer learned Tuesday his ministerial credentials will be restored after the church’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals voted 8-1 in his favor.

The committee, which held a hearing June 20 near Baltimore, found that “errors of Church law” had been used in imposing the penalty against Schaefer.

“I was wrongfully punished for standing with those who are discriminated against,” Schaefer said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a sign that the church is starting to listen.”

The decision comes as the world’s 12 million United Methodists appear headed toward a split over the denomination’s rules on ministering to gays and lesbians.

Conservative United Methodists Say Divide Over Sexuality Is 'Irreconcilable'

Devon Park United Methodist Church in Wilmington, N.C. in May 2012. RNS photo by Amanda Greene

Will the United Methodist Church soon have to drop the “United” part of its name?

A group of 80 pastors is suggesting that the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination is facing an imminent split because of an inability to resolve long-standing theological disputes about sexuality and church doctrine.

But more than lamenting the current divisions, the pastors indicated there is little reason to think reconciliation — or even peaceful coexistence — could be found. Like a couple heading to divorce court, the pastors cited “irreconcilable differences” that can’t be mended.

“We can no longer talk about schism as something that might happen in the future. Schism has already taken place in our connection,” said the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, a retired president of evangelical Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, who joined the statement.

United Methodists Postpone Thomas Ogletree's Church Trial

Tom Ogletree photo courtesy Yale Divinity School. Via RNS

The trial of a retired United Methodist pastor and former Yale Divinity School dean accused of breaking church law by performing a gay wedding has been delayed indefinitely.

Bishop Clifton Ives, a retired Maine bishop overseeing the trial, and pastors representing the church and the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, all agreed to pursue a “just resolution” before resorting to a trial, said the Rev. William S. Shillady, secretary of the trial court.

Ogletree, 80, faced a church trial March 10 and 11 in Stamford, Ct., for officiating at the 2012 wedding of his son to another man. The church defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and bans clergy from performing and churches from hosting same-sex ceremonies.

Methodist Court to Consider Growing Opposition to Gay Ban

Rev. Steve Heiss, officiates at the July 2, 2002 commitment ceremony of his daughter. Photo via RNS/courtesy Steve Heiss.

The United Methodist Church’s highest court gathers for its semiannual meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday, as the denomination confronts a growing movement of defiant clergy members opposed to church doctrine on gays and unwilling to back down.

“Martin Luther King said there are risks when you stand up to unjust laws,” said Ogletree, 80, an ordained elder in the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.

 

The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s collection of law and doctrine, forbids the ordination of “avowed” homosexuals and bans clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages or holding such ceremonies in its churches.

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