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Photo by Sam Hodges, UMNS.

The Rev. William McElvaney (seated) officiated at the March 1 wedding of Jack Evans and George Harris in Dallas.

Supervisory response under way for Dallas pastor

By Sam Hodges
March 25, 2014 | DALLAS (UMNS)

Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference has confirmed that the Rev. William McElvaney is the subject of a “supervisory response” for having officiated at a same-sex union, something prohibited by United Methodist Church law.

“It is my prayer that our members, both clergy and laity, affirm the goals of this process with their prayers and respect for the confidential nature of this process, which seeks reconciliation as its ultimate goal,” McKee said in a March 24 statement to North Texas United Methodists.

McElvaney, 85, announced in January at Dallas’ Northaven United Methodist Church, where he is pastor emeritus, that he was willing to officiate at a same-sex union.

He followed through on March 1, conducting a service at Dallas’ Midway Hills Christian Church for Jack Evans and George Harris, partners for 53 years and longtime Northaven members.

The United Methodist Church officially holds that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Church law forbids clergy from officiating at same-sex unions and also does not allow United Methodist churches to host such services.

Official complaint filed

McElvaney reported to Northaven members recently that he was the subject of an official complaint, filed by the Rev. Camille Gaston, Metro District superintendent for the North Texas Conference. He also said he had been suspended for 90 days.

McKee, in his statement, did not address who filed the complaint. He did say that suspension of McElvaney “as part of this process is not being pursued.”

Under the Book of Discipline, the church’s law book, a supervisory response seeks a “just resolution among all parties.”

If a just resolution isn’t reached, the bishop has options, including referring the matter as a judicial complaint, which could lead to a church trial and revocation of clergy credentials.

McElvaney has been pastor of Northaven and other North Texas churches. He’s also a former president of Saint Paul School of Theology and former professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, both of them United Methodist seminaries.

He’s the author of the book “Becoming a Justice Seeking Congregation,” and has been outspoken on peace and social justice issues, including gay rights.

In a new essay titled “Reflections on The United Methodist Church’s Struggle to Become Inclusive,” McElvaney writes: “When institutional covenants supersede radical grace, the church is protecting its own prejudice and inoculates the church against love in favor of law.”

Support from another pastor

The Rev. Bill Matthews, another retired United Methodist pastor in Dallas, said this week that he too is willing to officiate at a same-sex union.

Matthews cited having a gay daughter who has been in a partnered relationship for more than 30 years as one reason. He also said he was moved by the actions of his longtime friend McElvaney.

“I’m not trying to rock the boat, except to say the boat is going in the wrong direction,” Matthews, a former missionary to the Philippines, said in a phone interview.

McElvaney applauded Matthews’ decision.

“It’s to the well-being of the church, the more pastors, active or retired, who take this step,” McElvaney said. “I think it will move the church toward the greater inclusion.”

Leaders of Good News, an unofficial group in The United Methodist Church that supports the church’s teachings on homosexuality, have called on bishops to enforce the Book of Discipline against clergy who officiate at same-sex unions.

“Obviously, the movement by clergy to defy the Discipline is schismatic and divisive in the church,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News. “What’s even more troubling is bishops who are knowing that and failing to vigorously enforce the Discipline.”

In his statement to North Texas United Methodists, McKee noted that The United Methodist Church has a diverse membership that is engaged in “the evolving discussions regarding the church and human sexuality.”

He closed his statement by saying:

“Together, let us be in prayer for our conference as we seek to engage in constructive conversations about the issues that face our denomination, the body of Christ, our cities, and most of all our neighbors. Let us also pray for our church as it looks to the Holy Spirit to help us navigate through differing points of view, understandings of the gospel, and commitment to our covenant together as United Methodists.”

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

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