A United Methodist bishop on Monday dropped the case against a retired minister accused of breaking church law by officiating his son’s same-sex wedding. The decision comes just months after the denomination defrocked another minister for the same reason.
The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012, at the Yale Club in New York City.
Some Methodist clergy filed a complaint against the minister after the wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times. The lead complainant was the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, on Long Island.
Bishop Martin McLee, who announced the decision to drop the case at a news conference in White Plains, a New York suburb, also called on church officials to stop prosecuting other pastors for marrying same-sex couples. The bishop said he would cease trials over the issue in the district he leads, which covers 462 churches in New York and Connecticut. Ogletree lives in Guilford, Conn.
McLee later acknowledged to the Associated Press that it was clear the minister had “violated the Discipline,” Methodist ecclesiastical laws, by conducting the same-sex rite. But he said the best way to deal with the case was to bring it to “a just resolution. We didn’t dismiss the case—we resolved it.”
McLee said the resolution was to ask Ogletree to participate in a public forum later this year, which includes a broad discussion about divisions among Methodists over same-sex relationships.
Ogletree’s was the second high-profile United Methodist case involving same-sex relationships in recent months. In December, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a minister from Pennsylvania, was defrocked after he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding.
The dismissal of the case against Ogletree comes without conditions. The settlement does not require him to say he’ll never conduct another same-sex wedding, nor does it specifically say that what he did was wrong.
In a statement issued on Monday, Paige said he was “dismayed by the settlement” and the lack of consequences. He predicted the decision will further divide the church.
“The impact of this settlement today will be that faithful United Methodists who support the church’s teachings will feel ignored and will face their own crisis of conscience, as to whether they can continue to support a church that will not abide by its own rules,” he said.
McLee’s decision is considered a victory for Methodists who have defied the church law that considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Conservative Methodists have been pressing church leaders to discipline clergy who preside at gay weddings.
The United Methodist Church, the second-largest U.S. Protestant group, has debated for four decades whether to recognize same-sex relationships. The denomination has more than 12 million members worldwide.