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Photo by Joanne Utley

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree speaks at a press conference at the New York Conference Center in White Plains, N.Y. Looking on from left are the Rev. Tim Riss, counsel for the church; New York Area Bishop Martin McLee; retired Bishop S. Clifton Ives, the presiding officer, or equivalent of a judge, in the case.

Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Cooney.

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree.

New York Conference court resolves Ogletree case

By Linda Bloom
MARCH 10, 2014 | WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (UMNS)

New York Area Bishop Martin McLee has called for “the cessation of church trials” against United Methodist pastors who perform same-sex wedding ceremonies as a complaint against a retired United Methodist seminary dean was dropped.

"Church trials produce no winners...trials are not the way forward," said McLee, speaking at a March 10 news conference.

The completion of the complaint process against the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, was made without conditions. Ogletree presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012.

Just Resolution Statement

The New York Annual (regional) Conference has published "Terms of a Just Resolution in the Matter of The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree"

The announcement from the official court handling the complaint for the New York Annual (regional) Conference came during a news conference March 10.

Ogletree’s trial was first scheduled for the same day at First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Conn. Retired Bishop S. Clifton Ives, the presiding officer or the equivalent of a judge, postponed the trial date Feb. 10.

Besides McLee, those participating in the news conference were Ives; the counsel for the church, the Rev. Timothy Riss; counsel for Ogletree, the Rev. W. Scott Campbell; New York Area Bishop Martin McLee; and the Rev. William S. Shillady, secretary of the trial court.

"This has been a challenging and inspiring experience for me," Ogletree said.

He said he also was grateful to McLee's commitment "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" and plan for a forum to discuss the issues for the New York Conference this spring.

"I do believe he is now providing a new model for our bishops on how they can play a transforming role (on this issue)," Ogletree said.

The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, since 1972 has stated that all people are of sacred worth but “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Church law says that marriage is to be between a man and a woman and bans United Methodist clergy from performing and churches from hosting “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

The Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and the Rev. Roy E. Jacobsen, a retired pastor, were the New York Conference clergy who filed a complaint against Ogletree after his son’s wedding announcement appeared Oct. 21, 2012, in The New York Times.

Paige is the president of the Wesley Fellowship, an unofficial evangelical renewal group in the New York Conference. Jacobsen is a board member of the group.

Methodists in New Directions, an unofficial New York Conference group that advocates for greater inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in the life of the church, has championed Ogletree’s case and first announced the trial date.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at https://twitter.com/umcscribe or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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