Gay Methodist pastor a step closer to church trial

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United Methodist Church minister Cynthia Meyer says she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of the new year, Meyer told the small congregation in Edgerton, Kan., about her relationship with a woman. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

United Methodist Church minister Cynthia Meyer says she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. So, during her first sermon of the new year, Meyer told the small congregation in Edgerton, Kan., about her relationship with a woman. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow

KANSAS CITY (RNS) A United Methodist pastor who recently came out as gay may be a step closer to a church trial, just weeks before the United Methodist Church’s General Conference is expected to take up the question of gay clergy and gay unions.

Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference rejected a proposal to resolve a complaint lodged against the Rev. Cynthia Meyer, who came out to her Edgerton, Kan., congregation during a Jan. 3 sermon.

Meanwhile, the church’s top policymaking body, the General Conference, meets in Oregon May 10-20 and is expected to reconsider its rules on gay pastors and gay marriage.

Over the past decade, the denomination has put on trial several ministers for officiating at gay weddings. In 2013, the Rev. Frank Schaefer of Pennsylvania was barred from ministry by the church after officiating at his gay son’s wedding, then reinstated on appeal.


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The United Methodist Church is one of the last mainline Protestant denominations to prohibit the ordination of openly gay clergy. Its Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

In July, Meyer was appointed pastor of Edgerton United Methodist Church, located in a rural community of 1,700 just southwest of Kansas City.  She had previously served for 12 years as assistant dean of students at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist-affiliated school in Atlanta.

In January, Meyer told the congregation she was “called by God to be open and honest” about who she is. She is a lesbian, she said, and shares her home and her life with another woman.

Soon afterward, the Rev. David Watson, district superintendent, filed a complaint against Meyer.

At the time, Meyer and the bishop hoped to work toward a “just resolution.” According to their proposals, both parties seek to avoid a church trial.

But in an email sent to Meyer on Easter Sunday, Jones proposed that Meyer wait until the General Conference makes a decision on gay pastors. If the conference is unable to agree on new rules regarding gays and lesbians and its prohibition remains on the books, Jones suggested Meyer, who has been a minister for 25 years, withdraw from the ministry.

As an alternative, he suggested the congregation withdraw from the denomination and reorganize as a independent church or affiliate with another denomination.

Meyer rejected both proposals during their meeting the following day.

Jones has selected the Rev. David Bell, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Garden City, Kan., to review the case and make a decision about whether to move the case forward to the Committee on Investigation of the Great Plains Conference, which would determine whether the case would go to church trial.

“I offered to Reverend Meyer the best terms that I could, and she was unwilling to accept them,” Jones said.

Meyer posted a video response to the decision on Facebook. Although she has not had an opportunity to meet with the entire congregation, she said she has spoken with a few church leaders who are very upset at Jones’ proposal.

“They joined me in my dismay at his suggestion that I leave, and that the entire congregation leave the denomination,” Meyer said.

Jones referred to this option as “a way of helping Reverend Meyer have a place to go.”

His message to United Methodist clergy and members is this, “We are not of one mind as a denomination, and yet how we treat each other in resolving these differences is vitally important.”

Religion News Service video by Sally Morrow

(Sally Morrow is photo editor for RNS and is based in Kansas City. RNS national reporter Lauren Markoe contributed to this report.)

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  • Mike

    This is a sad situation – the most important thing here is that the denomination remain within Christianity by remaining orthodox and not venturing into heterodoxy like the other mainline protestant denominations. It’s not the woman’s fault that she’s gay, though, and it’s right for her to be honest about it. There is probably not going to be a win/win coming out of this.

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  • CarrotCakeMan

    Mike seems to be suggesting these denominations which marry same gender couples are not “within Christianity.” That isn’t his call to judge.

    Affirming Pentecostal Church International
    Alliance of Christian Churches
    Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Community of Christ
    Ecumenical Catholic Church
    Ecumenical Catholic Communion
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Anglican Church In America
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
    Inclusive Orthodox Church
    Moravian Church Northern Province
    Metropolitan Community Church
    Old Catholic Church
    Presbyterian Church USA
    Progressive Christian Alliance
    Reconciling Pentecostals International
    Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ
    Unity Church

  • watson

    What about the Word of God? Oh, I forgot, that’s irrelevant – our emotionalism is more important.

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  • Jay

    Oh, you mean the injunction that forbids women from speaking in Church or that women be submissive to their husbands? Or is the passages about how slaves should be treated or about stoning insubordinate children? Just what parts of the Word of God do you think is relevant here?

  • George Nixon Shuler

    You mean the Golden Rule? I agree, the rush to judgment over some uninformed notions about a pastor’s personal life is definitely based on emotion alone. Thank you.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    “Orthodoxy” = the seminary-educated’s term for “political correctness.”

  • Doc Anthony

    Your laundry list makes clear that Rev. Meyer has a ton of “churches” she can transfer to, if she wishes. Shoot, even the Universal Life Church Online would give her a license, and she wouldn’t even have to be a Christian. She’s got it made in the shade.

    Indeed, if she wanted to remain a Methodist, Meyer could simply transfer to the New York Conference. Openly practicing gay ministers are totally A-Okay with that outfit. No need to worry about any pesky Bible stuff, nor any Book of Discipline. That stuff don’t matter back East.

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  • CarrotCakeMan

    None of those unhelpful “suggestions” are any of your business. You really must learn to respect the right of all Americans not to share your beliefs.

  • BILLY BOB THORTON

    NO IT’S NOT HIS CALL IT WAS A HOLY GOD WHO CALL IT ALL THE WAY FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION,,

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