Concocting a Conflict

By Walter Fenton

In a barely veiled attempt to create conflict where there is none, a gay couple in North Carolina has filed a complaint against their United Methodist pastor for refusing to preside at their same-sex wedding. But there is a catch to this case — the pastor is clearly in on the ruse.

The Rev. Kelly Carpenter and Green Street UM Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are the very same pastor and congregation that made headlines in March 2013 when they decided not to hold any weddings, hetero- or homosexual, in their church until the denomination lifts its ban on same-sex marriage.

According to Carpenter, the complaint filed by Kenneth Barner and Scott Chappell is “right on the money,” and if it were possible, he said he would serve as a co-signer of the charges brought against him.

Clearly this is another publicity stunt on the part of the church and its pastor to highlight a non-existent conflict in the UM Church’s Book of Discipline. According to the complaint, Carpenter is guilty of a “failure to perform the work of ministry” because he will not preside at the gay couple’s service, and therefore, he is also engaging in gender discrimination, another chargeable offense according to the Discipline.

The illogicality of this ruse is patently obvious. No clergy person who refuses to preside at a same-sex service is guilty of “gender discrimination.” Pastors who refuse to preside at such services do so because they are explicitly forbidden to officiate at same-sex services or weddings. Gender discrimination does not enter into it.

Under Carpenter’s and the couple’s twisted logic, a pastor could be accused of “gender discrimination” for refusing to preside at a wedding service for a man who wanted to marry another woman while still remaining married to a first or second wife. But perhaps this is what some progressives are ultimately angling for – the blessing of any unions people desire.

This publicity stunt further demonstrates that most progressives prefer to play legal games with the BOD rather than demonstrate the courage of their convictions. If the pastor and Green Street’s leadership council are truly exercised by the denomination’s prohibition against same-sex weddings, why not have Carpenter courageously preside at the couple’s service right in the church’s sanctuary, and then all suffer the consequences of the act?

UM liberals talk a good game about ecclesiastical disobedience, but they are seldom willing to pay the price for it. They enjoy the publicity their stunts bring, but then do everything they can to avoid the consequences. One does wonder how some progressives would survive in their own denomination where they could preside at as many same-sex weddings as they liked. But of course it’s no fun being a rebel when no one cares.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and an analyst for Good News.

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