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Gay Marriage Divides the Methodist Church

Since 1972, the Methodist Church's Book of Discipline has held that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Christian teaching," and forbids Methodist clergy from performing same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, same-sex marriages have been performed by Methodist pastors, like the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, who faces church sanctions after officiating at his gay son's same-sex marriage, and a handful of other Methodist ministers.

The emerging debate has been between those who, like Ogletree, retired dean of Yale Divinity School, say that "an unjust law is no law," and those who, like the Rev. Rob Renfroe, pastor of Woodland United Methodist Church, near Houston, argue that the church's position is based on the absence of "any passage in scripture that is condoning or accepting of that practice."

It is, Renfroe says, "a matter of whether or not we will be faithful to what God has revealed." For Rev. Ogletree, scripture "has no concept of homosexuality or sexual orientation at all," therefore the church law is based on "an oversimplified reading." Others, like the Rev. Scott Summerville,  see it as a matter of inclusion and exclusion. It is hypocritical, he says, for the Methodist Church to say to homosexuals: "you can worship here, love to have you, but frankly [you] can never be fully 100 percent one of us." Correspondent Betty Rollin has prepared an 8-minute news video report on the Methodist divide over same-sex marriage, and the upcoming church trial of Rev. Ogletree for officiating at the marriage of his gay son, for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a resource for cutting edge reporting on the intersection of religion and society. Also see our feature article, "Why Our Bodies Matter."

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