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Methodist Bishop Drops Trial Against Conn. Pastor Who Officiated At Son’s Gay Wedding

Rev. Thomas Ogletree (credit: religiousstudies.yale.edu/ogletree)

Rev. Thomas Ogletree (credit: religiousstudies.yale.edu/ogletree)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A retired United Methodist Church minister accused of breaking church law by officiating his son’s same-sex wedding had his case dropped by a New York bishop Monday, just a few months after another minister was defrocked for the same thing.

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, said he’s grateful the church had decided not to prosecute him for what he called “an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love.”

“There’s no talk of guilt or wrongdoing or any penalty. It’s just the case goes away, which is a vindication for Tom,” Ogletree’s spokesperson Dorothy Benz told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

Bishop Martin McLee, who announced the decision, called on church officials to stop prosecuting other pastors for marrying same-sex couples. McLee, who leads the church’s New York district said he would cease church trials over the issue in his district and would organize a broad discussion about the church’s internal divisions over gay relationships.

“By avoiding a trial we are bringing a conversation to the table where we can be in dialogue on the matter of human sexuality,” McLee told 1010 WINS.

Although pleased to have his case over, Ogletree said he was “even more grateful” that the bishop vowed not to prosecute similar cases in his region, which covers 462 churches in New York and Connecticut.

McLee’s decision is considered a victory for Methodists who have defied a church law that considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Conservative Methodists have been pressing church leaders to discipline clergy who preside at gay weddings.

The dismissal of the case against Ogletree, a theologian noted for his work on Christian ethics, comes without conditions.

At the announcement in White Plains, McLee invited Ogletree to participate in a Methodist forum later this year that will include discussion of how the church deals with sexuality.

Ogletree presided over the wedding of his son, Thomas Rimbey Ogletree, to Nicholas Haddad on Oct. 20, 2012, at the Yale Club in New York City.

Some Methodist clergy filed a complaint against the minister after the wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times. The lead complainant was the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station. Paige said he planned to issue a statement later Monday.

If found guilty, Ogletree could have been defrocked, Schneidau reported.

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest U.S. Protestant group, has debated for four decades whether to recognize same-sex relationships. The denomination has more than 12 million members worldwide.

Ogletree’s was the second high-profile United Methodist case in recent months over same-sex relationships. In December, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a minister from Pennsylvania, was defrocked after he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding.

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