85-year-old Dallas-based Reverend Bill McElvaney has been suspended by the United Methodist Church for presiding over a gay couple's marriage.
"Love over law," said the retired clergy, who has been suspended from all clerical responsibilities for three months following a complaint from the superintendent of United Methodist churches in the greater Dallas area. Bill also said in a statement, "I would like to ask Northaven [Bill's church] members to hold the bishop, the complainant and me in your prayerful concerns as the process unfolds. I encourage no other response to the bishop’s letter at this time."
Because Bill is fighting liver cancer, he has cut back significantly on his duties, but was committed to performing the ceremony for Jack Evans and George Harris. The two have been a couple for more than half a century.
The United Methodist Church has long been divided, especially in recent years, about church policies regarding LGBT members. Numerous clergy, including the Bishop of Eastern Pennsylvania, have been vocal about their advocacy for inclusive policies that promote equality. However, as the church continues to work through this conversation, multiple trials have been held for those who act in support of people who are LGBT. Reverend Frank Schaefer made national headlines when he was defrocked for blessing his gay son's marriage and retired Bishop Melvin Talbert was put on trial for officiating a gay couple's wedding, as well.
Rev. McElvaney has previously referred to these trials as "the Methodist version of inquisition in the 20th and 21st centuries." As of now, he is not set to stand trial, but will be having a private meeting with the bishop, the superintendent who filed the complaint, and an additional person of Bill's choosing.
LGBT members are welcome at Bill's church. Two months before he performed this wedding, he spoke about his courageous willingness to act against church policy. You can watch him speak about his pro-LGBT stance here:
Perspective on LGBT-related topics continue to evolve and undergo dialogue in the United Methodist Church, as they do in many other faith traditions and throughout the country at large. A recent poll found that the majority of religious Americans approve of marriage equality.