The United Methodist Church as a whole recently decided to continue in its tradition to not ordain gay clergy or officiate same-sex marriages, but not all Methodists agree.
One minister in Tampa Bay is responding by letting his community know his church isn’t just tolerant of LGBTQ people; they celebrate their identities.
The Rev. Andy Oliver has a plan for how his congregation will respond to a controversial vote by the United Methodist denomination that he says marginalizes the LGBTQ community.
“This Sunday, we’re having a special service where we are inviting all of our community partners to come to grieve and celebrate together who we are,” the pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg said, after returning from an international conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis.
“Clergy like myself have been openly officiating same-sex marriages,” he said. “The church calls us, when we see laws that are unjust, to dissent. So I have been practicing that at the risk of losing my orders.”
Oliver is like a reverse Kim Davis: He’s not only doing the job he signed up to do by officiating marriages, he’s doing so in a way that actually dignifies and validates them. If his church “bosses” don’t like they, they can remove him themselves because he’s not leaving.
Many affirming Methodists have been experiencing a similar crisis of faith since the UMC’s decision to maintain the “Traditional Plan.” It’s possible that people like Oliver will, over time, contribute to reforming the denomination from the inside… or it’s possible they’ll get rid of him and everyone like him in an effort to maintain doctrinal “purity.” It would be a tremendous mistake on their end.
The more likely outcome is that the Methodist church will experience a split — and affirming congregations like Oliver’s will be the ones that survive and grow as time goes on.