Elder accused of being 'practicing' lesbian

Elder accused of being 'practicing' lesbian

7/8/2013

by Heather Hahn

A second New York Annual (regional) Conference clergy member this year is facing a complaint under the denomination’s stance on homosexuality.

The Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy, a United Methodist ordained elder, is facing a formal complaint that she is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” a chargeable offense under church law.

Tweedy has previously served in parish ministry and now serves in extension ministry as the dean of student development services in the State University of New York Sullivan, a community college. She attends Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains, N.Y., where she preaches monthly.

She is also on the steering team of Methodists in New Directions, an unofficial caucus that advocates for greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the New York Conference. Methodists in New Directions announced on July 8 that Tweedy faces a complaint and potential church trial, which the New York Conference has confirmed.

On the caucus’ website, Tweedy’s biography notes that she lives with her spouse Kristin Marcell and their two sons. Both Tweedy’s congregation and Methodists in New Directions are organizing support for her.

Because of confidentiality rules, neither the conference nor Methodists in New Directions disclosed the name of the individual or individuals who filed the complaint against Tweedy.

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

The book bans “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from “being certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, a United Methodist theologian and retired elder in the New York Conference, announced this spring that he is facing a formal complaint under church law for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son on Oct. 20.

The complaint against Tweedy was filed earlier this year. After the just resolution process failed in both the cases of Ogletree and Tweedy, New York Area Bishop Martin D. McLee referred each case to a counsel of the church — the equivalent of a prosecutor.

The church counsel has the task of officially investigating and determining whether evidence supports the complaint. The counsel also decides whether to file formal charges and potentially set in motion the trial process.

Both the complaints against Ogletree and Tweedy are in roughly the same stage in the complaint process.

Church law allows for other possibilities beyond a church trial, said the Rev. Robert Walker, assistant to the bishop in New York.

“Most complaints are resolved by the just resolution process and don’t go to trial,” he said.

Voters in the New York Conference have repeatedly approved petitions to General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, that seek to change church law on homosexuality. The most recent of these was in 2011.

Though the debate has surfaced at every General Conference since 1972, the legislative assembly consistently has voted against changing the denomination’s stance on homosexuality.

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.