March 12, 2018

Yet Another Pastor Defrocked over UMC Marriage Standards

Not long ago, I wrote about the recent removal of openly partnered lesbian activist Cynthia Meyer from United Methodist ministry. Among other things, I said that she “is far from being the first unfaithful clergy expelled from United Methodist ministry for betraying our biblical sexuality standards. She will not be the last.”

Well, we didn’t have to wait long!

In accordance with the clear teaching of Scripture and 2,000 years of consistent global Christian teaching, our United Methodist Church’s governing Book of Discipline forbids our clergy from conducting same-sex union ceremonies or from being sexually active outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.

However, we have repeatedly reported on how an active disobedience movement has been going on for many years and repeatedly challenged our denomination’s collective willingness to enforce our own standards. Among other things, I have urged folk to remember that these clergy openly betraying their ordination vows to follow our standards may be extremely loud, but they are a really, really TINY fraction of the whole.

The latest test came when Anna Golladay, who was co-pastor of both St. Mark’s UMC and St. Elmo’s UMC in Chattanooga, Tennessee, performed a pastorally harmful same-sex “wedding” service.

In late February, someone sent Golladay’s district superintendent (DS) a photo from this ceremony. Her superior moved quickly to confirm the information, and Golladay was stripped of her pastoral license by the end of the month.

Because she was a licensed local pastor rather than an ordained elder with an M.Div. degree, Golladay did not have the same level of protection in our church-law system. There are often serious concerns about the vulnerabilities licensed local pastors have under those bishops who are more heavy-handed. But in this case, this allowed accountability to come with refreshing swiftness, avoiding the energy of a more drawn-out process.

Interestingly, Golladay’s PR promoters at the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) are reporting that her DS first called a meeting with her back in January after hearing about what she did. But RMN reports that “Golladay neither confirmed nor denied” that she had done the union “and at that time [her DS] said he would not proceed any further.” While perhaps all of RMN’s reporting should be taken with a grain of salt, this detail does raise several questions. If Golladay was truly so committed to her professed values, why would she lack the courage back in the January meeting to stand by her convictions and honestly own up to what she did?

In any case, the way in which someone finding the photograph apparently made all the difference indicates that this may be a case of social media being a helpful tool for accountability.

In a blog for RMN, Golladay recounts being part of a leadership team focused on revitalizing St. Mark’s UMC, to which she was eventually appointed as licensed local pastor in 2016. The record confirms that congregation initially enjoyed dramatic growth during the first years of this “revitalization process.” However, the record also shows that in the year after the congregation formally affiliated with RMN, worship attendance plummeted by 24 percent, while giving plunged by 29 percent.

After driving away such a huge portion of its people and money, it apparently became financially necessary to yoke St. Mark’s with St. Elmo’s UMC, another declining congregation in Chattanooga. The record shows that the latter congregation lost a whopping 42 percent of its reported worship attendance in the year it joined RMN and then another 38 percent of its remaining worshippers over the next two years, all the while misleadingly inflating the number of church members it claimed.

Social media comments and Golladay’s dubious claims that the UMC “has irreparably harmed” these already-troubled congregations by the defrocking of their co-pastor suggest that these congregations may decline further, and that many of those who remain will now be especially unhappy about staying in a denomination like ours.

Of course, all the rhetoric from Golladay, RMN and company portraying this move as “unnecessary” and such a horrible surprise is little more than dishonest bluster intended to intimidate area denominational officials from doing their job, even though Golladay’s defrocking was the only commonsense outcome. Kudos to all relevant leaders in the Holston Conference for not falling for it.

For Golladay’s part, she is not thrown out on the street. Instead, she is apparently employed by something called the Center for Progressive Renewal while also reportedly running a little side business of selling T-shirts, several of which are rather foul-mouthed.

Pastors and congregations who choose to affiliate with the UMC know our biblical rules, which provide invaluable spiritual protection against the actual “irreparable harm” that results from serious sin if people never repent. A truly compassionate Christian pastor would not seek to shallowly pander to members’ temptations to engage in sinful behavior, but would do the much more difficult work of walking with them in encouraging them to self-sacrificial lives of Christian discipleship.

And if someone is determined to be completely close-minded against even listening to or considering the UMC’s biblical, Wesleyan values, then perhaps they’d be happier if they had their own new denomination, or simply joined the Unitarian Universalists.


27 Responses to Yet Another Pastor Defrocked over UMC Marriage Standards

  1. Scott says:

    As a LP I support the swift removal of an LP who so clearly and blatantly defied the BOD, however I wish elders got the same consideration. I wonder if the swift decline in the churches named above after partnering with the RMN will be matched by a decline in the UMC if the bishops get their way and make us a RMN denomination.

  2. Jim Tormey says:

    Unfortunately this will be something we see more and more of as we draw nearer to the General Conference meeting next year? If RMN’s track record is any indication, future events will occur and occur with more rapidity. They are going to,in my opinion to push the Bishops and the conference into a decision. So, hold onto you hats, were in for a bumpy ride. PRAY for God’s intervention into this situation.

  3. Starr Card says:

    You call yourself a Christian, Mr. Lomperis? This article is full judgement! And I’m pretty sure that’s a sin. Clearly you need to learn how to love you fellow sisters in Christ. Have you taken a moment to listen to what she has in her heart? We’re all Gods children and All means All.

    • John Lomperis says:

      Actually the technical theological phrase “children of God” only properly refers to that minority of humanity who have been made so by adoption. That’s how it’s used by Jesus and in the rest of the New Testament. The hurtful idea that “everyone’s a child of God” has more to do with Unitarianism than Christianity.

    • Parker Wayland says:

      Starr, as persons who have decided to follow Jesus, it is imperative that we make judgements in this world. Jesus said that those who love him are those who obey his commands. My judgement of the Bible’s message is clearly that sex outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is sin. To withhold warning from my neighbor is not loving them-it is unfaithfulness to Christ. And that is the UMC’s view as well.

    • Kathy Reynolds says:

      You confuse “judgement” with sound Biblical teaching. That is a ploy many Christians are embracing. Stand strong in your faith and commitment to God. It is not “judging” to let people know the truth in a loving way. It is uncaring and hateful for Christians not to tell someone the truth—and we will eventually have to answer for that.

    • Mark says:

      She sounds awfully judgmental to me.

  4. Annie Maxwell says:

    St. Marks can be such an amazing, loving, welcoming church, that, at times, I forget the thinly veiled hate that exists in the UMC. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Michael Hankins says:

    Such a sad and dishonest account of the facts. Mrs. Golladay has been a true blessing to both congregations and the community. UMC is a tired denomination that is greatly in need of progress. Once thought of as a progressive church, it is more similar to those denominations of the past that sheltered Jim Crow Laws. By the way, I proudly own one of her t-shirts which reads, “Y’all Need Jesus” which I’d apparent many here do. The real Jesus that says Love is the greatest commandment. Remember, people don’t ask to be Gay, they are just created that way. If your child is born Gay, do you cast them out? Acceptance and Love is the only way forward. Accepting those who are different is what we are supposed to do, rather than casting stones, AmIRight?

    • Michael Murphy says:

      The greatest commandment is to “Love God with all your heart, mind and strength.” See, “love” always has a target. You seem to be confused with what the “real Jesus” said. It’s printed in black and white, in the Bible. Anything written outside of that document is nothing more than another person’s opinion. In this case, the UMC Book of Discipline sticks to the Biblical text.

      Notwithstanding the continuing scientific argument about homosexuality being a genetic trait rather than a choice, God’s word makes plain that it is not something He intended to happen. To say that they were “created” that way implies that homosexuality is as God intended it to be. That, unfortunately, is clearly against what the scripture says.

      Jesus is clear about accepting others and loving them. He set his example with the woman caught in adultery, as you allude to. Do you remember what he said to the woman? 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.
      “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

      You see, Michael, Jesus gave that love and acceptance of the person in front of him. He did not condemn her. However, he did give her a charge…to leave her life of sin. He did not say, “Go, and keep doing what you’re doing.” He loved her, and he wanted her to change her ways. Should we not also show that kind of love? Should we not want to leave our ways of sin behind, and encourage those around us to do the same?

      I encourage you to re-read that story from John 8. It seems you have a heavily watered-down paraphrase of that passage. Take a hard look again at what it says about how we are to live and how we are to love.

      • RonT says:

        Michael, I hear soo much about love as an argument in an attempt to absolve persons of errors in actions. Does it show love if I encourage someone to continue in sin or condone the continuing in the action? More importantly, will the “real Jesus” at the judgement time love the person enough to overlook the transgression? If that were so, we could look forward to doing any activity and feel sure of escape from Hell! God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) offers love and Grace to everyone, but hell will be populated!!!

        You totally misunderstand what is happening with the woman accused of adultery. It really concerns the misapplication of Mosaic Law. 2 Timothy 3:5  (KJV)
        5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.

    • T. Scarborough says:

      “UMC is a tired denomination that is greatly in need of progress.”

      The problem is that Christianity is not a democracy. In America, we have all sorts of rights spelled out for us, and we can add more or change the existing ones at any time. God’s word isn’t like that. God’s word is law. Period. We don’t get any say in what’s right or wrong, what’s allowed or isn’t. God is the master. We are the created. We are the followers. We are to do as we are told. Remember Eve and her apple?

      This goes against everything Americans are raised with. We are FREE! Free to choose our own paths, free to do as we please (within reason). Americans don’t have anybody dictating to us what we shall and shall not do … but Christians do. Christians (and Jews) must follow God’s word, not some interesting modern ideology. Luke 17 comes to mind: ” 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.” (NIV)

      I know I don’t want to have to stand at the Pearly Gates and try to explain myself after “re-interpreting” what God said.

    • John McAdams says:

      I don’t doubt that people, to a substantial degree, are born with a tendency toward same-sex attraction. But people are also born with a tendency toward alcoholism. Heterosexuals are born with a tendency to commit adultery. Those are things to be resisted.

  6. Greg B says:

    As a gay man the UMC says I’m Welcomed! The UMC says I’m accepted! The UMC accepts me becoming a church member! The UMC is happy to accept my offerings and tithe’s! But the UMC refugees to accept my marriage! I’m questioning the acceptablely?!

    • John McAdams says:

      The Christian view has always been: accept the sinner, but don’t accept the sin. Your view seems to be: you don’t really accept the sinner unless you accept his sins too.

    • Naomi Lackey says:

      Bless your heart. You do NOT have to doubt the ‘acceptability’. You just have to recognize that God’s words are more important. It has made it clear, what He expects of us. He loves us– so much, that He gave His only Son, so for those of us who do things He has said not to do, can be forgiven & still go to heaven & sit at His right hand. His main word– ‘those who believe in me, shall not perish, but, have everlasting life’. We are not ‘perfect’ until we die & stand before Him. That is the truth of this world . Thank God, there is ‘the next world’. He sees the ‘whole picture– He knows love.

  7. MarcoPolo says:

    I’m glad I no longer belong to a religion that pits dogma against reality. So maybe the Universalists will be the dominant force in the coming years/centuries?
    God help us, wherever She is!

  8. Eric Lytle says:

    Off-topic a little: Is Juicy Ecumenism planning to do an article on the ELCA seminary president who was just fired because she had, in the past, been associated with an ex-gay ministry? It’s been covered on a few other blogs. It’s an interesting example of the PC devouring one of its own. The seminary is United Lutheran in Pennsylvania.

  9. John Smith says:

    Now if the Bishops and Elders could be held to the same standards as the LP and especially the average member who is footing the bill for all of this.

  10. Donald says:

    The pattern in the UMC congregation, initial rise in membership and then plummeting membership and giving, is what we in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have seen with congregations that align with those ‘progressive’ values. The PC(USA) now stands at 1.4M members, down from a high of slightly over 4M some thirty years ago. I’m glad to see the UMC imposing some discipline, which will hopefully take you out of the race we Presbyterians are having with the Episcopalians – which one of our historic denominations can fall below 1M members first.

    • Joan Sibbald says:

      Speaking of Episcopalians, at a national meeting held at the National Cathedral in DC the delegates unanimously voted to become “gender neutral” in order to welcome “transgenders.” No longer will God be called, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Lord, and I assume Jesus because Jesus is a male name. They also voted to make pronouns in the hymnals to “gender neutral.” Lastly, they voted to support open borders.

      • Scott Kiddle says:

        It seems we are to all respect the “preferred pronouns” of certain ones who “identify” as something other than the gender they were assigned at birth. Sadly, there is no regard for God’s “preferred pronouns.” He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures as “He”.

  11. Bruce says:

    I am pleased to here this. We cannot be a Church that accepts blatant sinners in our clergy. We need to set a good example. As John McAddams said above, we accept the sinner but not the sin. To do otherwise makes just adds to our sins. I’ve been a member of the Methodist church for 72 years and have been disappointed lately. This report made my Sunday!

  12. Cathy Burchett says:

    I had the same thing happen to me and was “Defrocked”, but because I took a stand for the Biblical Stance. I, too, was a Local Pastor, and had no level of protection in the church-law system. I was having my yearly interview by my peers when my license was refused to be renewed. According to the written assessment it was because they feared how I would behave with people I was different than and my “literal understanding of the Bible”. When I asked one of the persons, who voted for this to happen, I was told it was because I was non-inclusive. When I asked him to explain, he told me it was because I believe that living out the homosexual lifestyle was a sin. I was made to finish out my appointment, which was until the last day in June. The Conference I was serving, I was told has about a 90% liberal, progressive leadership. (It isn’t the Conferences that probably come to mind.) This Conference is working hard to push the homosexual agenda, and I preached the Word of God. I didn’t preach “Anti-Homosexual” but that it is our responsibility as Christians to love all people to Christ. Those that know me were shocked, as they said they couldn’t believe that I was considered “non-inclusive”, as I always pushed that we are to love as Christ loved the Church, and speak the Truth in Love. I was also told that if I based my faith in God from what the Bible taught I was in idolatry, putting this book that is full of errors above God.
    Needless to say, I was devastated as I really believed that God had called me into ministry. This is a situation where they could silence me because I wasn’t ordained. I tried to fight to get the decision reversed, but there is no process to do that.

  13. Dr. Charles Klink says:

    I am a now-retired UMC pastor, but before retirement I was in a church where there was a member who, when he found out another woman of the congregation (who had grown up in that church) was in a gay relationship with a committed partner, made it his vandetta to get her out. I was very frustrated with his attitude and I defended the woman’s right to be in church, her right to be present as a person of worth and in relationship with Jesus Christ, and enjoined the SPPR to do the same, which they did. Eventually the man who was bringing the challenge left the church, the woman remained and we moved forward. Shortly after all this the woman can to me and asked if I would do the wedding of her partner and herself (our state had just approved same-sex partnership weddings), to which I had to tell her that I could not because I would lose everything as a pastor because of our denominational position — and the good part is that she understood (was obviously hurt, of course) but understood because I had defended her when she was attacked. I share this to let all know that this is not an issue of church split, but is an issue of being persons worshiping together who come from different backgrounds/positions/perspectives — ALL of which are not perfect. We need to be “all things to all people” and not individuals with a sole agenda which is foisted unto persons/congregations. There is grace and understanding if we are willing to be an imperfect people who are perfected in and through Christ.

  14. Linda Cebrian says:

    Golladay and her ilk have no respect for normal people.

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