Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions

United Methodists will try retired Yale dean Thomas Ogletree

Tom Ogletree photo courtesy Yale Divinity School
Tom Ogletree photo courtesy Yale Divinity School

Tom Ogletree photo courtesy Yale Divinity School

(RNS) A retired United Methodist pastor and former Yale Divinity School dean will face a March 10 church trial for officiating at the 2012 wedding of his son to another man.

The trial for the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, follows a bruising drama that concluded last month when the denomination defrocked a Pennsylvania pastor who was tried on the same charge.

“I could not with any integrity as a Christian refuse my son’s request to preside at his wedding,” said Ogletree, Friday (Jan. 17), in a statement. He has previously stated he has no regrets and would preside again at a same-sex wedding, if asked.

The announcement of a new trial comes as United Methodist clergy are openly defying church rules on ministering to gays and lesbians. The denomination defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and bans clergy from performing and churches from hosting same-sex ceremonies.

In December, the denomination stripped Frank Schaefer of his clergy credentials after a November trial found him guilty of officiating at the 2007 wedding of his son to another man. Several other clergy trials are possible in the near future.

The New York Conference, to which Ogletree belongs, has passed resolutions supporting same-sex marriage. But Bishop Martin D. McLee has said that until the denomination’s laws change, he was obligated to follow church law.

Ogletree has said his actions were motivated by love and justice, not ecclesiastical disobedience, and that bad law should be challenged.


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Renee K. Gadoua


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  • It is too bad that for some, such as these two Priests, and former Vice President Dick Chaney, that they fail to understand how morally corrupt it is to believe that gay humans should not have the same rights as any other human, until it hits home. These immoral beliefs are for the most part, driven by religious beliefs, which are supported by religious texts, which are largely immoral.

    Religion is poison!

  • “Religion is poison” What utter nonsense! How would you even have a clue whether gay “marriage: is moral or not? You dont even know what morality means because you have no basis for it other than what makes sense to your own subjective thinking.

  • It’s a rough road, but the Methodists are absolutely doing the right thing.

    Yale dean or no Yale dean, if this Ogletree guy doesn’t at least promise to stop doing his unholy dirt, then it’s time to take him down just like Schaefer. Fire him on the spot and send him packing. Period.

    (And don’t forget, a little excommunication can go a long way!)

    These gay-marriage “ministers” are declaring war on the Methodists. They are not repenting, not apologizing, not compromising, not ever. They want to keep doing their evil, and influencing others to do their evil.

    So the Methodists are on the brink, quite honestly. They need to fight back, fight hard, and fight to win. Or else they will lose big-time, for a long time.

  • Methodists have become a conflict of extremes. Evangelicals are too much in control of the church. The Methodist Church cannot expect to live in two worlds, the world of evangelicalism and the world that intelligently blends religion with all we have learned about our world and its in habitants in the past several centuries. They should divide.

    Ecumenism makes no sense in any effort to blend the extremes of those who hold biblical writings literally and those who recognize them as metaphors of ancient and old times that must constantly be adapted to new, proven learning. For churches to have laws and courts and judges is an existential contradiction. When religion ceases to be free, it is left being evil. The history of religion is too full of such evil.

  • I would never consider Dick Cheney to be religious at all. Unless, that is, you want to include all the evils of religious history in the mix. Cheney’s behavior as a politician gave a very bad name to politics. It would make religion equally evil.

  • From all we see in the morality of religious belief, it is totally subjective. There is a process with ethics in measuring the benefit or harm of any action toward others as good or evil. That is supposedly the process under the civil laws of this so-called democracy.

    However, when we observe the voter suppression techniques of our Supreme Court and the legislatures of North Carolina and other southern states, we see we must always be vigilant against the evil ethics practiced in our civil legal systems. When the Catholic majority of our Supreme Court declares that money is speech and corporations are people, we are left in a quandary about religious morals and civil ethics.

  • New York Methodist Bishop Martin McLee needs to consider whether his own faith and morals have any meaning or standing instead of being a mere functionary of a system in which he reads a book of canons and and pronounces what he has read. It seems an electronic device could easily replace McLee doing the latter.

  • Even a cursory reading of religious and church history discloses so much evil that one is left wondering if it has anything to do with good or is so “poisoned” it is worthless.

  • Your attitude toward a forced religion makes religion so poisonous it should be ignored by everyone. There are other ways than religion to be good in the context of continuously increasing knowledge of our universe and its inhabitants. When religion ceases to be free, free for every individual, it becomes an evil forced by others on those evangelized. Then it is certainly a poisonous evil.

  • Robert, Morals are innate in all humans. All humans should be treated in a manner in which you yourself would like to be treated. The Golden rule. When two same sex couples get married it does no harm to me, or anyone else.
    People who derive their morals from religion risk believing all the teachings that are in it moral, they are not.

    Religion is poison!

  • Doc, Your often used phrase “a little excommunication can go a long way!” sounds as though you think that this would be a good way to instill fear in those clergy that remain loyal to immoral scripture, but who may have started to understand that some of the teachings of their religion is not moral, even though for some this realization only comes after it becomes personal to their lives.

    It doesn’t surprise me to see this in your comments though, as the other comments I’ve seen from you indicate you are the type of person who thinks keeping the “flock” in line with fear is not only an acceptable method of control, but rather the only method to control.

    Once again not surprising, given that this is what your religious text teaches. Heck of a way to live life though; seeking to control those around you to conform to what you believe.

    Why is this though? This is something I can’t help but try to understand. Is your advocacy to excommunicate priests to instill fear in those that remain, which is a method of control, because you are concerned about the souls of those who remain, or is it because you somehow need others to believe what you do, to support your beliefs? I would like to understand your motivations.
    Can you please explain this to me?

  • No, it’s not about “instilling fear”, Earold. The fact is that even secular employers aren’t going to allow you or I to openly and publicly disobey their written rules and standards. You’ll simply find yourself fired, no longer part of their organization. Excommunicated, as it were.

    And they won’t even waste their time and money on a “trial” before letting you go. They’re not going to let you become the cancer that kills their business.

    That’s what the Methodists need to do with those gay-marriage ministers.

    Getting rid of the cancer is sad, it will leave many hard feelings, but the cancer is starting to metastasize. Other Methodist ministers are already spitting on their own Book of Discipline (and their own Bibles), calling for gay marriage within the church. The cancer is spreading.

    Time to do more than defrocking. Time now for radical surgery. Time to clean house. Time to excommunicate the gay marriage ministers.

  • You’re right, the Methodists cannot live in two worlds. Light is incompatible with darkness, Heaven is incompatible with hell, and Christianity is ABSOLUTELY incompatible with gay marriage.

    It’s time to get rid of the gay-marriage ministers.

  • Morals are “innate?” Complete nonsense. All of western civilization’s morality is derived from 2000 years of Judeo-Christian influence informing us of what is “moral.” Two-thousand years of the Judeo-Christian view of man as created in the image of God, infinitely precious to God, and possessing fundamental rights simply by virtue of human birth and completely independent of national or familial ties–a notion that the pre-Christian ancients would (and did) laugh at.

    People have been borrowing moral capital from Judeo-Christianity for so long that they’re blissfully ignorant that they’re even doing it. Nietzsche was the last atheist thinker worth his salt, for he at least had the knowledge and education to recognize Christianity’s ethical legacy to the West for what it was, and the intellectual integrity to repudiate it openly and honestly.

  • Doc, I don’t disagree with you that the Methodist Church should not be able to terminate employees (Pastors) for making statements and taking actions to maintain their corporate image, just as any other business would, because I also agree with you that religions are like any other business. And of course unlike you, I would like to see all of the go out of business.

    And, I also agree with you that they should not have to hold trials, that is unless it is part of their employment agreement with their Pastors when disagreements are had.

    When you make the statement “a little excommunication can go a long way!”, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion you say it meant, that these Pastors are a cancer that should be cut from the body to save the whole, sort of a Mathew 5:30 approach.

    Doc, I do believe your convictions are sincere, although from the comments I’ve read of yours, your positions are wrong, but then you probably at least feel the same way about me, the latter at least.

    So, I’ll take you at your word, but also offer that since I found it difficult to ascertain what you say is your true meaning, I’m sure that others also have the same difficulty, so if you care about being correctly understood, you may want to reconsider your phrasing so it better describes your true meaning.

    Thank you for your response.

  • Thank you also. I apologize if I have not been clear enough in my own statements.

    I am calling for Ogletree and all the other gay marriage ministers to not just be defrocked, but to be excommunicated, for the sake of the survival and credibility of the United Methodist Church. Nobody likes radical surgery, but you have to remove the cancer before it removes you.

  • Earold, you speak plainly. You also ignore, it seems to me, the nexus of the opposition to gay “marriage,” that it calls for a redefining of that concept. You refer to gays being denied a “right” to marriage. Not so. The objection centers on their–and on liberals’ generally–notion that basic concepts must be overtuned in order for some–and it may be a minority of gays, at that–to “feel better” about themselves.

    I would argue that a gay person with a realistic view of the world and nature would say that he or she chooses to live with another of the same sex and that such arrangements can be given legal cover without resorting to playing with language. I also think that much of the steam in the religious opposition would dissapate were the gay activists and other liberals to call for legal protection for gay unions.

  • “The Methodist Church cannot expect to live in two worlds, the world of evangelicalism and the world that intelligently blends religion with all we have learned about our world and its in habitants in the past several centuries.”-gilhcan

    gilhcan, I’d ask what we have actually learned about homosexuality in the past several centuries that makes it fitting to redefine the concept of marriage. Science has yet to tell us the causes for sexual orientation. We haven’t necessarily “learned” anything simply because a concerted and vocal movement has sprung up to call for redefining marriage.

    Nor can the marriage debate be likened to the civil rights and human rights debates because there’s nothing in any metaphysical or religous concepts that justify discrimination based on the accidents of skin color, national origin, etc. Marriage as a social institution arose out of a need to protect the family, and there can be no family without the parents who, out of biological necessity, must be of opposite gender.

    The very concept of gay “family” presumes the USING of some person of the opposite gender in order to produce a baby.

    By the way, religion is free. In a free society one is not forced to belong to a sect. (Nor, in a free society, is one forced to purchase products or services deemed unnecessary by that individual.)

  • Let us look at the sad state of the church if they open the door to gay clergy.The gay pastor does unholy things with his body on Saturday, then with filthy hands he puts on his vestments on Sunday.His hands which have touched things no mans hands should touch, handles the sacraments, he gives you the bread and wine which you put in your mouth!(I HOPE this makes you sick).
    What does he preach? Not the truth! His mouth is an open grave that speaks perverse things and carefully leads people to hell by speaking the vain philosophies of this wicked age.WAKE UP CHURCH! AND SHOW THESE WOLVES THE DOOR!

  • The moral laws of God are eternal and not open to debate. Two bulls shall not make whoopee or give each other the smack

  • If he does not repent of his blasphemy and renounce his marriage to darkness, his ultimate fate is worse than you want to consider.

  • Do you really think that John Wesley would insult God and spit on the laws of Heaven by marrying two sexual perverts of the same gender? Kidding, right?

  • Thank you for standing up and saying what needs to be said! As a former Methodist and now very active in the LDS church, Christians can have no seat at the table of demons, whose followers defile themselves with perverse actions a common dog would not copy.

  • Duane, The point isn’t what we’ve learned about homosexuality in the past several centuries, it is what the majority of the U.S. society as a whole has learned about the morals of humanity, in spite of religious immorality.

    Is it out of self-denial, ignorance, or purposeful fabrication that you attempt to discount the ties both slavery, which was the start of what we now call the civil rights movement, and human rights, one example of which is the right to vote only given to women a mere 90+ years ago from religion? They came straight out of the Christian book of lies, and are still used to enslave minds, and subjugate woman in the U.S. today. Also let us not forget about the Muslims and their fabricated Koran, which is used to violate the civil rights of millions of women, and non-Muslim humans today, as is the fabricated words of many other religions.

    Marriage is a social institution yes, but to say it arose out of the need to protect the family is absurd, as there was nothing the family needed protecting from. Marriage was a concept created by society to recognize that two people chose to publicly make a statement that they were partners in life, and a family was often the result when it involved two people of the opposite sex, but not always. To say that it was just about protecting the family is an insult to those who have married, but for whatever reason couldn’t, or chose not to have a family, and I take that very personally.

    I know you’re a fan of the founding fathers, so let me quote one for you and so perhaps it may somehow suppressed that homophobic gene religion has implanted in your brain so very long ago for just one brief moment in time, so you may have a chance to snap out of the delusion that gay marriage hastens the end of our society or world.

    “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
    Now, let me make just a few changes, and there you go – But it does me no injury for my (same sex) neighbor to say there (they) are (married) gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

    By the way, religion is not free, it costs society so very much. Just think about the Salem witch trials, Jim Jones, 9/11, just to name but a few of thousands. And now those same sex humans who are in love and want to be recognized by society as married, simply wanting the same civil rights any heterosexual couple have, all because of religion. Oh yes Mr. Lamers, they know the cost of religion all to well, they pay for it daily.

    Religion is pure poison!

  • Religion is not the cause or source of morality. Far from it. It is an overused fiction slung by people with a rather amoral POV to attack atheists as some kind of wicked evil people.

    Religious morality does not exist. Religion gives easy excuses for immoral behavior and forgoes personal decision making and empathy in favor of outsourcing it to blanket unquestioned authority. If God is the only thing keeping you from acting wickedly, then you are not acting moral. You are a psychopath on a spiritual leash. Someone with no connection to humanity at any level.

    Gay marriage is far from immoral and you cannot cough up a way that it is harmful or wrong in a rational or secular manner. Nor can you point to harm caused in places where it is legal.

  • That is a load of ignorant bull.

    The “Judeo” of “Judeo-Christian” concepts of law and morality are a lot more than 2000 years old. Thanks for being such a bigot and claiming that everyone before Christ was immoral.

    People know what is moral whether they have heard of the Bible or not. Morality exists in societies which do not ascribe to “Judeo-Christian views” (a fictional term you will never define clearly or honestly). Your silly claim that they are merely copying or “borrowing” “Judeo-Christian” ideas is complete fiction. All people and societies have a sense of morality.

    People learn morality from their dealings with other people. They develop moral senses based on how they empathize with other people. Whether their decisions will harm or help others because personally (we like to be helped and not harmed), sense of others (we know others do not want to be harmed and like being helped), and society (things don’t work well if we are harmful to others).

    Christian “ethical legacy” is not much to brag about. Centuries of wicked, harmful acts being done in the name of Christianity. Centuries of excuses for innately immoral behavior under the guise of following one’s faith. Excuses for everything under the sun to harm others who were “heretics”, “sinful” or “heathen”. A legacy which continues to this day.

  • If this is what their church wants to be in the news for, so be it. If they want a sect full of bigots, they can have one.

    Just don’t get the impression it is free of social sanction or commentary. The United Methodists are free to kick out people for whatever reasons they want to. They are also free to be criticized for such decisions when warranted.

  • Religion is nothing more than Fascism on steroids.

    The BULLY Pulpit is immoral nonsense. It is a shame anyone bothers with it.

  • “The “Judeo” of “Judeo-Christian” concepts of law and morality are a lot more than 2000 years old.”

    Well duh! However, it was Christianity that took the “Judeo” to the world, which until then largely did not know or care about the “Judeo.”

    “Morality exists in societies which do not ascribe to “Judeo-Christian views”

    True that, but fundamentally it is not anything that we in the west would recognize as truly moral. Because it lacks the Judeo-Christian view of the individual and rights that are innate rather than derived from recognized tribal relationships. This is why, for example, Native Americans regarded the torture to death of captives as good and moral (something to learn at your mother’s knee, quite literally), why the Greeks and Romans considered infanticide and murder-for-entertainment to be a positive good, and why EVERY culture in human history accepted slavery enthusiastically until Christianity gave the world a reason to reject it–not once but twice. It’s the west that has been the world leader in human rights — not these “other societies” that have had just as much opportunity to learn about empathy from dealing with others but come up short nevertheless.

    Talk about ignorant bull–sitting around bleating about how you don’t need religion to be moral when everything you know about morality has been steeped in religion from antiquity, to the point that you couldn’t separate it out even if you tried.

  • And nobody heard of moral concepts before Christianity came onto the scene and dominated Western Culture? No. Not even close. Only a truly ignorant zealot could make such a statement.

    Again you prefer to sling bigoted ignorant statements denigrating any culture besides your own rather than provide a supportable argument.

    You sling the word “Judeo-Christian worldview” around but it is a nonsense term. You can’t define it in any meaningful, non circular, rational way. It is anything you want to attribute to the West without bothering to figure out where Christianity fit into it. A blanket taking credit where it is not due. So you use it in a way to take credit for everything even if such things fly in the face of actual facts.

    EVERY CULTURE has its own version of the big three moral rules: Stealing, lying and murder are bad. It doesn’t take knowledge of the Bible or Jesus to figure out why such things exist. It is the basis of any kind of living arrangements of groups beyond one family.

    Christians considered mass murder, persecution and enslavement to be virtuous. Every culture which had slavery also had justifications for ending it. Vile horrible practices tend to create resistance to them. I guess you would call Spartacus and Epaminondas Christians even though they predated Christianity by many centuries

    You really have no idea what you are talking about.

  • I already defined the aspect of the Judeo-Christian worldview which has distinguished the west from other cultures with regard to human rights. I suppose you do not possess sufficient reading comprehension skills to have grasped it.

    Of course every culture has a concept of stealing, murder and lying being “bad” but they differ from Judeo-Christian culture as to whom they consider this duty owed. In the cultures I mentioned, as well as others, the right to not be murdered, lied to or stolen from derived from one’s recognized tribal ties and not from any kind of purely innate human dignity. It took Judeo-Christianity to contribute that.

    Spartacus and Epaminondas have no relevance to any of this. It is one thing, and entirely expected, to fight for one’s own liberty. It is quite another to call for the repudiation of the institution of slavery itself as a violation of EVERYONE’S inherent rights, as Christians have been doing ever since the fourth century. Prattle all you want about the “morality” of other cultures, but the simple historical fact remains that ONLY the Christian west, with its unique view of the individual, has ever been able to come up with a compelling argument for repudiating slavery–first in the middle ages and then again in the early modern era. Indeed, the non-Christian world has not completely repudiated it even to this day.

    Go back to school. You’ve got a lot to learn.