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Dallas pastor faces complaint for same-sex service

By Sam Hodges
March 21, 2014 | DALLAS (UMNS)

The Rev. William McElvaney says he is the subject of a formal complaint for going against United Methodist Church law by officiating at a March 1 same-sex wedding in Dallas.

McElvaney confirmed in a Friday phone interview the details of a letter he sent to members of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, where he once was pastor and now is pastor emeritus.

McElvaney said he received a letter March 7 from Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference, informing him that the Rev. Camille Gaston had filed the complaint.

Gaston is superintendent of the Metro District of the North Texas Conference.

Neither she nor McKee immediately returned calls or email requests for comment.

McElvaney said he’s expecting to meet soon with Gaston, McKee and a person of his own choosing, as part of the supervisory response required by the Book of Discipline and aimed at a just resolution, when such a complaint is filed.

Only if a just resolution can’t be reached would the complaint go forward. The process requires that a church trial — with the potential for revocation of clergy credentials — be a last resort.

“We’re just kind of in a watchful waiting position,” McElvaney told United Methodist News Service. “I think it’s important that people include Bishop McKee and Rev. Gaston in their prayers, as well as me.”

McElvaney, 85, officiated at a wedding for Jack Evans and George Harris, partners for 53 years and longtime members of Northaven United Methodist.

The United Methodist Church’s official position, since 1972, has been that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Church law forbids United Methodist pastors from officiating at same-sex unions and also says United Methodist churches must not host such events.

The denomination also defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The wedding for Harris and Evans was held at Midway Hills Christian Church, in Dallas.

McElvaney announced at Northaven on Jan. 19 that he would be willing to risk punishment under church law by officiating at a same-sex wedding.

“The church is on the wrong side of the gospel and on the wrong side of history,” he said in an interview before the March 1 wedding.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of Northaven, has joined McElvaney in asking that others pray for all involved and not respond emotionally to news of the complaint.

“I have known Cammy Gaston since seminary, and consider her a friend, and a valued colleague,” Folkerth said in a Facebook post. “I believe our bishop to be a man of integrity and discernment. As Bill has asked, I will pray for both of them as well as for him.”

McElvaney is a former professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology and former president of Saint Paul School of Theology, both United Methodist seminaries. He’s the author of the book “Becoming a Justice Seeking Congregation.”

He said Friday that he’s cheered by the notes and calls he’s received for officiating at the March 1 wedding.

“I’ve been grateful for so many positive affirmations of having done the service and having called the Methodist church into question for spending so much time on LGBT sexuality instead of spending time on how we can live up to the Great Commandment,” McElvaney said.

*Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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