Despite church policy, Methodist bishop won't charge minster for being openly gay

A bishop in the United Methodist Church (UMC) is dropping a complaint against an openly gay minister for being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual." The news was announced by MIND (Methodists in New Directions), the LGBT-affirming reconciling organization for the UMC's New York Annual Conference.

Reverend Sara Thompson Tweedy, who is a steering committee member for MIND, had a complaint filed against her in March 2013 for being openly gay, while the United Methodist Church bans LGBT people from serving as clergy. A dean at SUNY Sullivan, Sara is also married with two children.

Bishop Martin McLee's decision to drop the complaint means that no formal disciplinary charges brought against Rev. Thompson Tweedy.

Rev. Thompson Tweedy responded to the decision:

In dismissing this case, Bishop McLee has chosen to honor the inclusive and justice-affirming intents of our Book of Discipline over its prejudiced and punitive rules. I have never denied who God created me to be and I have never denied my family. I went through this 14-month ordeal with the same integrity I went through the ordination process with, forthrightly answering questions and not hiding any aspect of my identity or my marriage. If my honesty resulted in my being defined as “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,” I was willing to face those consequences. Bishop McLee’s refusal to seek prosecution offers hope that other LGBTQ seminarians, ordination candidates and ministers in our New York Annual Conference can also live and work openly without fear of losing their jobs and their vocation.

In a statement released in March, regarding charges against Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree for officiating his gay son's wedding, Bishop McLee said, “I call for and commit to a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.”

As the UMC continues ongoing efforts towards LGBT equality and internal discussions about policies regarding the LGBT community, Bishop McLee's decision—as well as Rev. Thompson Tweedy's advocacy and visibility—are important steps towards making the church inclusive and affirming.