According to a press release from Methodists in New Directions (MIND), an unofficial New York caucus that rejects official United Methodist teachings that sex is only for man-woman marriage, complaints against the Rev. Sara Thompson Tweedy have been dropped. Tweedy, an ordained elder in the New York Annual Conference, faced a church trial for being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” in violation of the Book of Discipline. United Methodist News Service is also reporting that they have received confirmation from the New York Conference that any complaints have been dismissed.
Tweedy, who also serves on the steering committee of the Reconciling Ministries Network-affiliated MIND, has been legally married to her lesbian partner since 2008. “I have never denied who God created me to be and I have never denied my family…” Tweedy said in a statement announcing the dropped charges. “If my honesty resulted in my being defined as ‘self-avowed, practicing homosexual,’ I was willing to face those consequences.” However, rather than having the integrity to simply resign from a clergy order whose covenant she had no intention of honoring, Tweedy instead chose to invite regional church officials to sacrifice their own integrity.
Tweedy never explicitly denied the charge, instead telling the United Methodist News Service that she takes offense to the term ‘self-avowed practicing’: “‘Self-avowed practicing’ perpetuates the injustice committed against queer people, which is that we have been reduced to our sexual acts. …There is so much more to marriage than that and so much more to being a human being.”
The dismissal comes on the heels on the March announcement by New York Area Bishop Martin McLee that he was dropping charges against retired minister Thomas Ogletree, who openly admitted violating church standards by performing a same-sex wedding. In joint press conference with the Rev. Dr. Ogletree, Bishop McLee called for “a cessation of church trials for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same gender wedding ceremonies and instead offer a process of theological, spiritual and ecclesiastical conversation.” At the same press conference, Ogletree declared that he would readily break church law again.
Bishop McLee did not even bother trying to rationalize his actions as in accordance with church law. Essentially, he vowed that the New York Area would continue to call itself United Methodist and receive United Methodist funds, while only following the parts of the Discipline he decided were correct. With this newest dismissal, it appears that clergy standards of sexual self-control have also tossed out the window, based on nothing more than Bishop McLee’s personal feelings.
Back when complaints were first filed against Tweedy, IRD’s John Lomperis did a good overview of how White Plains Memorial United Methodist Church, the church Tweedy serves as an associate pastor, had slipped into decline:
“Tweedy began her current appointment in September 2009 after a period of family leave. Within the following full two annual-conference-year cycles, worship attendance at the church she helps lead has declined by 34.6 percent, membership has declined by 2.5 percent, and Sunday School / UMW attendance by a whopping 77 percent.”
He notes, perhaps even more depressingly, that within the same time period the church failed to add a single member. Time and time again, clergy defiance of the United Methodist Church’s sexual standards has been followed by similar declines. Bishop McLee is apparently intent on pushing the United Methodist Church towards this path to decline, and simply ignoring the rules until they do.