Philadelphia-area clergy gather to participate in a same-sex union blessing ceremony at Arch Street United Methodist Church (photo: UMNS).

July 3, 2014

BREAKING: Complaint Filed Against Philadelphia 36

A formal complaint has now been filed in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church against the “Philadelphia 36,” United Methodist clergy who jointly presided over a publicity-stunt same-sex union ceremony at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia last November, in open defiance of the church policies these clergy promised God and His church they would follow.

The complaints were initially filed by a racially diverse group of about 50 Eastern Pennsylvania United Methodist women and men – largely clergy, including the pastors of some of the conference’s largest congregations.

The widely reported case of Frank Schaefer, in that same conference, has already established defrocking as a good, very recent precedent for the just consequences for such ministerial unfaithfulness, both to punish the wrongdoing and to protect the conference in the future.

We have earlier reported on how the Philadelphia 36 had made clear that their publicity stunt was intended to both express solidarity with Mr. Schaefer and to basically challenge church officials to a sort of childish game of “chicken,” and on how these covenant breakers declined an invitation from Eastern Pennsylvania Bishop Peggy Johnson to pray with her and evangelical leaders in the conference.

A knowledgeable source, who asked not to be named, stressed that this filing of formal complaints was pursued only as a last resort after months of inaction by Bishop Johnson, who did not issue any clear public statement repudiating the covenant-breaking actions of the Philadelphia 36 as entirely inappropriate, did not take initiative in having complaints filed, and did not suspend or otherwise punish any of the offenders. The source further reported frustration among orthodox United Methodists in Eastern Pennsylvania over how at the recently concluded 2014 annual conference session, Bishop Johnson used her position to prevent delegates from even considering some resolutions that would have mandated some accountability steps to be taken by the conference, while scheduling other resolutions, that would have put the conference on record as supporting biblical, United Methodist standards for sexual self-control, so late on the schedule as to virtually ensure that there was no time for the conference to address them.

(I invited Bishop Johnson to offer any comments on this for the article, but did not hear back by press time.)

The denominational accountability process will be slow. But at least it is now moving along, as faithful United Methodists in Eastern Pennsylvania are standing together to defend biblical faithfulness and compassionate Christian ministry for ALL people.  They will not be intimidated by or roll over for the destructive, covenant-breaking, any-means-necessary tactics of the Philadelphia 36. And neither will we.


  • Dan

    So, the bishop will appoint an “inclusive” person to investigate the complaint, a period of time will elapse, and the investigator and bishop will announce with much fanfare that the complaint has been equitably resolved without the pain and cost of a trial. If they give any details it will be to say that a period of holy conferencing will take place where the complainants can here about the pain they are causing LGBT Methodists. There will also be the usual mumbo-jumbo about the inclusive love for all things LGBT and the hurtful actions of orthodox UMC members (presumable white males of heterosexual privilege) and the pain they cause to faithful, LGBT Methodists.

    In this case, as in all other going forward within so-called LGBT affirming annual conferences, the bishop plays the role of Lucy holding the football, and the complainants are Charlie Brown. ‘Nuff said – please move on, there is nothing to see here.

    • Scott Amundsen

      Oboy somebody call the Waaaambulance.

    • jinoneonta

      “Mumbo-jumbo?” You mean like the “mumbo-jumbo” that created the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South? Be careful with your wording, sir. You obviously do not know the pain caused by discrimination. I do. ‘Nuff said.

      • Dan

        Oh, for crying out loud! Are you serious? I guess I triggered you constitutional right to be offended about almost anything no matter how trivial. Does this mean I’m now the black sheep of this thread?! How about if we substitute gobbledygook for “mumbo-jumbo” above? Or perhaps gibberish?

  • PadreDave

    Dan- that is so sad, but unfortunately true. Nothing at all will be done to those who openly and intentionally violate the letter and intent of the Discipline to cause a stir to try and force a change in the wording of the Discipline when it can’t be done by legislative means. It seems as if all we can do is stand by and watch Bishops grant a pass to those who thumb their noses at the Discipline and thumb their noses at those of us who hold to our Discipline and polity that are grounded in scripture and continually upheld by each general Conference.

    • Scott Amundsen

      Think about just how MEAN SPIRITED your statement is. You are so intent on worshiping the BOD that you can’t even entertain the possibility that times have changed even though there are plenty of things in the Bible that modern Christians ignore completely.

      You’re disgustingly hypocritical. Enjoy wallowing in the muck of your hatred.

      • PadreDave

        Wow!!! What was I thinking- standing up for the traditional understanding of marriage! How dare I question the claim of a small percentage of the population that they have changed the definition of marriage for the for the rest of the world. How could anyone support the understanding of marriage that has been the cornerstone of civilization for thousands of years? How could anyone uplift the scriptural prescription of marriage that, “a man(masculine) shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife(feminine), and the two shall become one.” Anyone who holds such a view must certainly be a venom-filled bigot wallowing in hatred. That’s got to be the only explanation. Surely such a person who supports the Book of Discipline must a Neanderthal Methodist who hasn’t embraced the dramatic shift that some want to take place in our denomination. Don’t we all realize that now, in the UMC, experience is supposed to trump scripture and tradition. If scripture and tradition do not support a person’s personal experiences, desires, and inclinations, then tradition is ignored and scripture is dismissed or reinterpreted to line up with the present sexual trends. Obviously some of us haven’t gotten the memo.

        • Scott Amundsen

          There are literally thousands of things in the Bible that modern Christians conveniently ignore. You hang onto this one issue like a bunch of rabid pit bulls and the only reason you can give me is “this is the way it has always been done.”

          By that mindset we would still have slavery and interracial marriage would not be legal. Among other things.

        • Scott Amundsen

          And by the way, you mention Scripture and tradition several times but not once do I see you talk about reason and experience. How very Wesleyan of you.

      • Mike Ward

        Your statement is the one that is mean spirited.

        • Guest

          “911 What is your emergency?”

    • jinoneonta

      Do you worship God, or the BOD? I guess you answered that question. I think you’d better take a good, long, hard look at that. So much for doing no harm. Your attitude is part of the problem. “It’s always been like this” is the entire problem. There’s nothing “scriptural” about that.

      I was watched with horror GC2012 live the moment that Mark Miller stood before the Plenary and described the pain and hurt the UMC has caused upon members (remember “the least of these?”) and Mark was called out of order. But when some African bishop compared the LGBTQ community to bestiality, the plenary said nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. They accepted his vile words freely. Apparently, that was in order.

      All you nay-sayers need to be on the receiving end of discrimination. Yes, discrimination. And THAT is the GC, and in turn, the BOD upholds; and what you publicly stated that you, yourself, uphold. Tradition, experience, and reason. You forgot about that last one.

      But have no fear. If nothing changes at GC2016, The UMC shall lose my membership. And many others. And you shall rejoice, won’t you?

      • Jeffrey Olah

        these pastors stand before God and agree to uphold the rules of the BOD so when they don’t who really is not upholding their word to God

  • SunnyL

    Bishop Johnson supports the LGBTQ…..so expect no support from her…..sorry to say….she is mocking the book of Discipline and God’s Word!

    • Scott Amundsen

      Well cry me a river all of you.

    • Jeffrey Olah

      Thank God the Frank Schaeffer trial is out of her hands when it comes to appealing it to the judicial council

  • Donna

    Dead,
    already dead within,
    Spiritually dead in sin,
    Dead to God while
    here you breathe,
    Pant ye after second death?
    Will you still in
    sin remain,
    Greedy of eternal pain?
    O ye dying sinners,
    why,
    Why will you for ever die?