A United Methodist pastor in Charlotte, N.C., who performed a same-sex wedding earlier this year against the rules of her church is escaping without punishment.
The Rev. Val Rosenquist’s overseeing body, the Western North Carolina Conference, admitted in a Sept. 6 statement she will keep her position as pastor and will not face a church trial. The decision reflects the ongoing United Methodist battle between recognizing same-sex marriage and preserving the precepts of holiness put in place by founder John Wesley.
“Over the last 4 1/2 years there has been a building movement … to disregard the church’s biblical teaching on human sexuality,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, the vice president of the conservative Methodist Good News Magazine. “This is just part of that.”
Methodists in Rosenquist’s area immediately filed complaints to the conference after the wedding. She performed it in the church, wearing her robes, and joining the hands of the two men before the altar. The conference’s statement promised a “just resolution,” officially defined as a focus on “repairing harm,” had been reached between the people who filed the complaints and Rosenquist. The conference has sealed the specific wording of the resolution until 2018.
Lambrecht suggested the conference refused to put Rosenquist on trial because of the fear it would cause controversy and help unofficially define a Methodist position on gay marriage.
“The people who are in charge of the institutional church would like to prevent conflict,” he said. “I think it is also a matter of the fact that we are in a kind of uncertainty.”
The United Methodist Church has been debating the issue for years. Rosenquist is not the first pastor who has broken the rules.
Frank Schaefer, a former pastor in Pennsylvania, presided at his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007 and lost his job under church discipline. He was told he could keep his clergy credentials if he recanted his support for gay marriage, and he refused.
In 2014, a New York bishop publicly dropped a case against a dean who officiated at a same-sex wedding. In response, 80 conservative Methodist pastors signed a statement suggesting a split in the church.
“We define salvation differently. We define the church’s mission differently,” Lambrecht said. “For us to stay together would be for us to be working against each other.”
Conservatives stopped a bill possibly revising United Methodist policy on same-sex marriage at the General Conference in May. Instead, the church decided to call a new session in 2018 specifically to discuss this issue.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jae Wasson writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used with permission.)