Charges Dismissed Against Married Lesbian UMC Minister

on May 8, 2014

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.

  1. Comment by Marco Bell on May 8, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I’m not so sure that the decline in church attendance, and membership is happening for the reason you think.

    I have to agree with Ms.Tweedy regarding the primitive description used to distinguish her gender nuance. The term “self avowed practicing homosexual” does have the tinge of ignorance that used to be evident a century ago when ‘white-folks’ couldn’t quite get comfortable knowing what to call their newly found brothers who were awkwardly called: Darkies, Coloreds, Negroes, and worse!

    Until the Book of Discipline is rewritten, this will continue to be a conflict of distinction between WHO people are, and WHAT the Church sees them to be.

    Illustrating her point is helpful to understand just how archaic the Book’s description is, because why wouldn’t we then refer to the Heterosexual by their sexual acts (which by the way are the same act!)

    We aren’t self avowed HUMANS!
    Why would God have a problem with that, I think you’d be dissing the Big Guy to diminish any of his followers who are righteously trying to spread the love of Jesus.

    A similar contradiction exists within the Catholic Church when that denomination says, Priests must remain celibate, yet they must also be available for counseling married couples….HA! In many cases, experience accounts for knowledge, and knowledge is a desired commodity in a person who’s suppose to know something.

    I’m looking forward to the time when these distinctions are retired from our vernacular… The sooner, the better!

  2. Comment by Brent White on May 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    “[W]hy wouldn’t we then refer to the Heterosexual by their sexual acts (which by the way are the same act!)”

    The Discipline does refer to heterosexuals by their sexual acts when those acts are sinful—when, for instance, heterosexual commit adultery. It’s the same for homosexuals: the mere fact that one experiences same-sex attraction doesn’t exclude anyone from ordination or (heterosexual) marriage. The problem is when people engage in homosexual behavior. This is why one’s behavior is so important.

  3. Comment by Marco Bell on May 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Homosexuality is NOT an act, or behavior, it is just another variation of the human condition.
    Just as there are left-handed people, there are homosexuals.

    Yes, it is just that simple.
    That is why in time, the Christian-Right will discover that to be true. But when they do discover that they were wrong, I doubt that they will admit it, or even apologize for all the ill will, they dealt to those who were different than they.

    God help us, wherever She is!

  4. Comment by Jeffrey on May 9, 2014 at 8:29 am

    really Marco…wherever she is…Jesus refereed to God as father so I don’t see any other way to see HIM

  5. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Referring to God as female is part of the “new and improved” heretical “liberal theology”. The thought progression is: God is fully male and female, therefore, individually we are ALL each of us spiritually both male and female, therefore, homosexuality cannot be sinful.

    Social media is promoting this on the secular front as well; Facebook now has a list of 18 possible genders to choose from!

    This is in direct attack and contradiction of Scripture that God, who is always portrayed as a Father figure, created us as Male and Female.

  6. Comment by Marco Bell on May 9, 2014 at 10:44 am

    You needn’t “see” Him any other way, but because you see it that way, doesn’t dictate that that is the only way to “see” the Almighty!

    History records most epic moments in the framework of the powers-that-be at the time it was written, ergo, the ancients adhered to the custom of referring to the masculine for purposes of power, and thus, control.

    It’s quite alright to have a feminine Deity in the traditional sense without having to rewrite all the literature.

    And I wouldn’t be so arrogant to believe that we humans are any more ‘special’ than the other animals on this planet. Placing humans in the lofty position you speak of, simply gives them (humans, predominantly male) license to dominate everything they come upon.
    To me, that smacks of arrogance. And ‘my’ God wouldn’t think that to be humble at all.

  7. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26

    The Bible consistently teaches man’s superiority over the animal kingdom.

  8. Comment by Marco Bell on May 10, 2014 at 7:10 pm


    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

    Think about how that statement is phrased. “Let US make humankind in OUR image…” Who was God including in that statement? Was he part of a committee? The plural aspect of its pronouns suggest that God wasn’t speaking in ‘first person’, but rather as part of a group think tank.

    I simply find the Bible (and some other ancient texts) to be less than comprehensive when dictating (or even explaining) what occurs in Nature.

    I know we can all find parts of the Bible that dictate actions that today, would be considered crude, cruel, and disgusting, but there will always be people who take every word as Gospel.

    I don’t think I’m stretching too far to suggest that even God evolves…since everything He (or She) created, does!

    To not question the Science of something, seems naive, and to believe something that possibly defies Science, seems foolish.

  9. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Quote: “It’s quite alright to have a feminine Deity in the traditional sense without having to rewrite all the literature.”

    What god are you worshiping? God created us in His image. We don’t create our own god in our image.

  10. Comment by Marco Bell on May 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    If we are created in God’s image, then isn’t that the same image?

    We ‘look’ like Him, and He ‘looks’ like us?

    Despite the dictates of one book (the Bible), doesn’t it seem arrogant to believe that WE humans should be given such power over the pyramid of Life on earth?
    I mean, I can’t see where any of the wildlife on earth has done the harm that Man has!

    I know, it’s the Devil fault! But that’s just a scapegoat for not being a better human, which shouldn’t require a deity to dictate.

  11. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Why rewrite the BOD? It would be much more logical for the Progressive-Liberals to leave and form their own denomination or join an already apostate one.

    The UMC, because of growth in Africa, South America, and Asia, is moving in a traditional/orthodox direction. We are a connectional Church; we adhere to one common Discipline. A separate BOD for a particular region would effectively break the unity of the denomination.

    Quote: “We aren’t self avowed HUMANS!”. Yes we are! It’s a basic Christian tenant that we were specially created by God. We have a special divine relationship with Him. On the scale of creation we exist beneath the Angels but above the animal kingdom. We have been given the divine ability to determine good from evil.

    Homosexual practice makes a mockery of God’s intended use of our bodies. We can consciously decide to resist ALL forms of sexual sin and live a Christ-centered life.

  12. Comment by Wendy Koba on May 12, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    amen and amen

  13. Comment by Norm on May 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    You can change the Book of Discipline, but you can’t change God’s Holy Word or the order of His creation.

  14. Comment by Jeffrey on May 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    aren’t Bishops obligated to follow the book of discipline and charge these pastors who break church rules

  15. Comment by Steven H. Zinser on May 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    New York bishop McLee has made a declaratory judgment that the Book of Discipline is not to be followed. In for a penny, in for a pound.

    Therefore, we all are free to ignore what we wish to ignore. A little of it, a lot of it, all of it. Pick what you want. The Bishop says we can. We all get to do what’s right in our own eyes.

    Among the things I’ll pick is if I dole out support: time, talents, cash, service….

  16. Comment by gary on May 8, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    So glad I left the UMC last year as I saw Satan working through the gays and gay supporters (among other issues). John Wesley has got to be spinning in his grave over what has become of the Methodist Church. If I ever want to see what Satan is up to I just read a story about the UMC and man, there he is.

  17. Comment by Marco Bell on May 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Wow! “Satan… working through the Gays and Gay supporters”

    Ya know Gary, it’s okay to talk about a group of people without making it sound like you hope you never have to touch one of them! “The Gays”?! Really?!!!
    Maybe we should use that same vernacular for “straights” …I mean, “The Heterosexuals”, like they are a part of some other universe! LOL!!

  18. Comment by Donnie on May 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I still say it’s time that Christians leave the UMC. Let the apostates have it and let it implode on itself.

  19. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 9:03 am

    No. We must resist Satan in all his works. It’s time we reclaim the UMC in the name of Christ, confess our past sins, and affirm the authority and primacy of the Holy Scripture.

  20. Comment by Donnie on May 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I respectfully disagree.

    I guess it’s my age, but I can’t see the value of labels or denominations. There are many great, Bible believing, Evangelical (in the good sense) churches out there that have no denominational ties.

    Also, part of resisting the devil is fleeing from him. It’s obvious that many of the leaders of the UMC are using unsuspecting Christian’s tithes to do the devil’s work.

    Also, as the old saying goes “If you dance with the devil, the devil won’t change, the devil changes you.”

  21. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Thank you, Donnie, I very much appreciate your very valid position.

    Where I see value in Denominations is that there is, or should be, a doctrinal standard across all of the local parishes: whether you attend a local Church in North Carolina or in California, they should be preaching the same core doctrines. It’s a model that the New Testament gives us for a Bishop to oversee a region of local congregations. Unfortunately, the “United” Methodist Church has never been universally “United” in doctrine. We have always been divided into two camps from our very inception in 1968: theologically liberal and theologically traditional/orthodox. Our Book of Discipline, that defines our doctrinal position, is too weakly worded in too many places and this impending schism is the result.

    Yes, my area is abundant with independent, Holy Spirit filled, God-fearing, congregations. May God bless them all! But, I’m not yet ready to exit my service to God with my life-long Methodist family. That, to me, would be yielding another victory for Satan. Fortunately, the UMC in the rural American South is still very much doctrinally orthodox and hopefully I’ll be blessed to minister there till God calls me home.

    Our apportionment, our tithing that is distributed, is of great concern to me. I do believe that schism is now unavoidable, and as we reassess our doctrinal position so too will we also our moral/financial responsibilities. Although, I think the General Board of Church and Society should be immediately disbanded and dissolved.

    God bless you, Donnie, but I will remind you: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

  22. Comment by JamesF on May 9, 2014 at 6:16 am

    The UMC is living in a virtual reality of this chapter…

  23. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 8:27 am

    This continuing debate on the acceptance of homosexual practice within the Church is symptomatic of of a much larger problem. “Progressive” ultra-liberal theology has been eating away our core Christian doctrines, like a cancer, for over forty years. We now have Bishops in the UMC and Episcopal Churches that don’t believe in: the bodily resurrection of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, the God-breathed authority of Scripture, or even the recorded miracles. This case of Sara Thompson Tweedy is a prime example of a Bishop disregarding the primacy and authority of Scripture, and two thousand years of Christian tradition and teaching.

    Homosexual practice is clearly Biblically abhorrent as is a multitude of other sexual practices. Having same sex attraction isn’t a sin. We are all tempted to sin in many ways every day. But, sin can and will be resisted through a Christ-centered life.

  24. Comment by Daniel on May 9, 2014 at 10:43 am


    I applaud your desire to reform the UMC. I left 10 years ago after seeing the havoc wrought in the VA annual conference by bishop Kammerer. The problem with UMC reform is that you will have to first retake the seminaries and then hope to retake the annual conferences and general conference with godly, orthodox clergy. Right now the laity don’t matter. As long as the ostriches and pew potatoes keep paying their protection money, I mean apportionments, the hierarchy can keep supporting themselves.

  25. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you. The quickest action can be accomplished by educating “the potatoes”. Keep them aware of where the money is going and what it’s being used for. Reform needs to be initiated from the bottom up as well as the top down.

    I encourage every UMC member to call your District Superintendent and Bishop and speak your mind!

  26. Comment by Scott on May 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Daniel is right about the seminaries. They are the ones churning out the ministers who embrace unorthodox positions. There are a few good seminaries left — Asbury in Kentucky comes to mind, but the vast majority of UMC seminaries and colleges have little business claiming the “Christian” brand.

  27. Comment by DL Herring on May 9, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Yes, the seminaries we use are overwhelmingly liberal or outright ungodly. That is why we need to immediately institute a very strict vetting process concerning core Christian belief and moral/scriptural doctrine.

    We can still get a good Pastor from a liberal institution if they are truly called of God and strong in faith. This happens right now, but unfortunately we’re also seeing many ordained who shouldn’t be allowed near a pulpit.

    Pastor Parish Relations Committees need to wake up! Question newly arrived Pastors in detail about doctrine. Immediately contact your District Superintendent if you get an answer that is in contradiction to our core beliefs or moral teaching.

  28. Comment by Vincent Ciro on May 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I believe we should stay and resist the misguided, undisciplined and disgraceful actions by our Bishop and others. He seems to be on a mission. A mission not to spread THE Gospel but to force-fit the his politically correct, populist, polarizing social gospel of situational morality and ethics. He is clearly a renegade but we must stand strong as the remnant that abides in God’s Word and resists this evil. A split may indeed lie in the future but I believe it is much too soon to retreat. The war has only just begun. We may lose a few battles along the way but you don’t give up when only a few shots have been fired. May God guide, bless and strengthen us as we face evil and apostasy head on in His Name.

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