Resolutions Reached with Virginia Clergy who Performed Same-sex weddings

Bishop Young Jin Cho announced Friday, March 6, that two complaints filed against Virginia Conference clergy for conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies have been resolved through the just resolution process stipulated in the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Amanda-GarberThe resolutions, agreed to by all parties in both complaints, means that the Rev. Dr. John Copenhaver, retired elder who is Professor Emeritus of Religion and Philosophy at Shenandoah University in Winchester, and the Rev. Amanda Garber, founding pastor of the RISE new church start in Harrisonburg, will both be suspended from performing ministerial functions for a time, but they will not face church trials or possible loss of their clergy credentials.

“We worked for four months in an attempt to reach just resolutions,” Bishop Cho said in a statement. “We experienced many challenges, pain and difficulties along the way, but everyone involved earnestly and prayerfully sought to be open to each other and to the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

John-CopenhaverIn both resolutions, all parties in the complaint process acknowledge that they are “not of one mind on matters of human sexuality.” Both resolution documents reflect these different views “and the conflicts of conscience with regard to differing interpretations of scripture and church teaching.”

To read the rest of the press release, click HERE.


  1. Very frustrating since neither admitted any wrong-doing other than that others “felt harm” over their actions. Most importantly, neither “resolution” expressed any remorse for their actions or any indication that they will agree to abide by the BoD in the future — in fact both resolutions contain the same paragraph stating that these unfaithful clergy view their actions as fully correct and just.

  2. William T says

    To the blunt point. I ask them to explain why they no longer believe in Jesus and his description of marriage as recorded in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 during his discourse on divorce?

    • I would agree. Before my divorce after 21 years with very, very little guidance from the ministry, (Pentecostal) about divorce, since the ministry seems to pooh pooh divorce like it is no more relevant than a parking ticket. I did an extensive Biblical study, I was shocked at how much the Old Testament had to say and how much and the detail the New Testament spoke on the issue. Such as Luke 16:18.

  3. Thank you for reporting this! This gives me more hope! My friend recently returned from her UMC pastors school where the Bishop shared his heart and support of same gender marriage and weddings. I won’t go into the details, but what she described was beautiful how the Bishop used the Wesleyan Quadrilateral with Scripture as foundation to articulate his views that he feels God has called him to believe and share. He promised to support clergy who officiate at same gender weddings if they are doing it out of their call to provide pastoral care and ministry to the individuals. If officiating at the wedding was to make a statement only, then he would not be able to support the clergy. He also said that clergy who officiate at same gender weddings need to be prepared for the consequences because the discipline, although it contradicts itself, does indicate possible discipline for such actions. I’m so thankful for persons like our UMC Bishops, UMC Clergy, MLK Jr, and most of all Jesus, who have paved the way of social holiness, love and justice, God’s love and God’s distributive justice. Thanks be God. We shall overcome someday!

    • William T says

      Ok, he shared his view of same-sex marriage, which, of course was inappropriate and a violation of his vows. But notice, HIS view. Did he bother to share Jesus’ view of marriage? Did your friend notice that this Bishop and Jesus are in disagreement with relation to marriage? The description of marriage that Jesus lifted up and affirmed as God’s created plan in his discourse on divorce as recorded in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 is clear and unequovical. It cannot be disputed by any interpretative means, but most of all, it certainly cannot be disputed by using the Wesletan quadrilateral. The main question here would see to be, Is your friend preparing to serve this Bishop or Jesus?

    • There is nothing loving, holy or just about sin and the promotion of sin, nor is it Scriptural, no matter what your bishop claims.

      If you want to be loving, holy and just, try telling people the truth that sets free from sin instead of lying to them.

      • Rev. Michael M. Hayes former UMC Pastor says

        The Wesleyan Quadrilateral gives no credence to the marriage of same sex couples. If it did, remember it was not included in the scriptures. But of course most Bishops in the UMC don’t believe them anymore than Aesop’s Fables. The recent case in North Georgia Annual Conference involving
        Bishop Talbot only reinforces my belief that the UMC is doomed to fall to the way of the World, not the WAY of Jesus.

        • Honestly, I think the whole concept of the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral is unfortunate. A quadrilateral implies four equal sides, and saying that the Scriptures have primacy doesn’t change that. Besides, in practice, how often are the Scriptures really given first place in use of the WQ? Certainly not when used by Bible revisionists!

          Tradition, reason and experience are secondary considerations–and a distant second at that, which must all be filtered through the Scriptures. In practice we usually end up filtering Scripture through experience, reason and tradition, usually in that order. The results are painfully clear, in the Biblical illiteracy and theological chaos of our denomination, and in the absurdity of so-called just resolutions as in this case and the case of Talbert–they are not just and they resolve nothing.

          Maybe another image of concept would be helpful, but for me the “Wesleyan” Quadrilateral doesn’t work. And considering Wesley calls himself a man of one book, and believed strongly in the authority and primacy of the word of God, I don’t think it’s very Wesleyan either.

          • Friends in Christ,
            I so wish there was a way we could agree to disagree on this matter. Some of the responses from my original post have so much hurt and anger. It is my prayer that you will be overwhelmed with God’s love and grace so that you will be free from what binds you. I appreciate the Goodnews and their reporting of what’s happening in the UMC, even if I a disagree with some of their points of view. It appears that there is serious disagreement on interpretation of Scripture. Why does this issue have to divide? What would happen if we spent more time being in relationship with LGBT folk and befriend them and love them and hear their stories? I’m not saying to change your interpretation of Scripture, but simply love. I realize this task isn’t easy. I attend a church that recently affiliated with Reconciling Ministries Network. We are a church of 1400 people and we believe God’s love is for all-people who oppose LGBT orientations, people who affiliate with the Tea Party, people who are atheists, and people from various economic backgrounds, etc. It’s not easy to be a diverse congregation, but we know God works in ways despite. The only thing we will not comprise is Jesus and the incredible message of love and grace. I have two retired friends who are opposed to LGBT orientations and even the people who come to our church. I have befriended them. I’ve listened to her story, she is a beautiful child of God. I disagree with her interpretation of Scripture, but we feel what unites us is our call to join the Spirit of God in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Yes, our church could divide, but we feel called to live in the tension and walk together in our social and personal journey of holiness. It is my prayer and hope that the UMC does not divide, we need everyone. Yes, it’s difficult, but I need the Goodnews people in my life, I need Reconciling Ministries in my life, and I believe Jesus desires all of us to work toward the mission we have been given in making disciples of him for the transformation of the world.

  4. Ian McDonald says

    Put not your trust in princes or in men. It is sad to say but the Bishop who shared HIS views based on HIS view of the quadrilateral is unequivocally breaking his covenant vow not only with those of us in the United Methodist Church but with God. These Elders and Bishops who no longer want to hold anyone accountable to either the BOD or the scriptures are exacerbating the fact that in the United Methodist Church you don’t know who to trust. Fortunately God can still be trusted.

  5. William T says

    “In the UMC you don’t know who to trust”. You have pinpointed a big problem for me, and I suspect many others, with the UMC. I find myself spending too much time and energy trying to read between the lines, even with my own pastors. Not good. But, the leadership of the UMC has created this situation — not me. And, this is growing worse year by year. I really would like to trust them, but so many have lost my trust that I look at all but a small few with a very skeptical eye.. How much longer?

  6. Concerned Pastor says

    William and Ian,
    It’s not only the laity that are struggling with this…As a pastor, you point out something that I have been struggling with more and more. Trust of the leadership I am serving under.
    For 1) When the Bishop, and two District superintendents, give a free pass to a pastor in our conference performing a same sex marriage, and I learn about it only by reading the UMNS (because apparently the Bishop believes it’s “a confidential matter”) … and when only upon further digging I discover that this ‘just resolution’ is not only a ‘free pass’ but an actual promotion of their agenda. (For those pastors who violated the discipline are now put in charge of a discussion that all pastors in our conference will be strongly encouraged to attend). And the District Superintendents who brought the charges were also the ones to stand up in favor of a previous resolution at Annual Conference “to support pastors who perform same sex marriage … and not bring charges against them”. … It grows increasingly difficult to trust your leadership.
    2) When the church you serve which has a long standing commitment to camping … and you look though the brochure of UM camps … and see fellow pastors who you know hold the belief ‘that there are many ways to God and that Jesus is not the only way and that the scriptures are only a guideline from an old book” … and you go down the list of all camps and cannot in good conscious support almost 90% of them because you are skeptical about the Deans of these camps views and what your youth will be taught about the Bible, faith and sexuality… It grows increasingly difficult to trust your leadership.
    3) When spending countless hours ciphering through confirmation material from the UMC to try to find something I can support (Thanks Good News for I saw your ad and did end up using the ‘We Believe” and found it very solid). And with the understanding that these youth will in all likelihood eventually move to another area in the future … finding it difficult to suggest that they should even look to attend a UM church, because who knows what theology they will find? … It grows increasingly difficult to trust your leadership.
    So the main issue is this … Authority of Scripture and trust of leadership, these go hand and hand, and above any other issue this is what underlies my growing weariness of whether we can truly function any more as a “United” church.

  7. Its time to move forward. Let’s split up the church and get it over with.

  8. Thankful! has it exactly right in the post on March 27th. I wish all of our churches could be like the one described.

  9. Thankful, I’m not sure who you are talking about but I think you are the one that is bound, in bondage to political correctness.

    I repeat, there is nothing loving about lying to people in the name of God, it does not show love for God our neighbor. The loving thing to do is to share the truth of the Gospel of repentance and faith with all people, including homosexuals, rather than leave them in their sins and tell them it’s okay.

    This is not a matter of options in Biblical interpretation. The Bible is clear in declaring that Scripture is not subject to and is not a matter of our own interpretations. You and other Bible revisionists re-interpret the Bible in a way that has not been done for almost 2000 years, just to accommodate it to a very recent politically correct agenda. Those of us who take an orthodox view of Biblical authority are simply stating what the Bible says in plain and simple language.

    And that is why this issue must be a divisive issue. It is a matter of the authority of the word of God. And that makes it an issue of the authority of God. I choose to obey God rather than people, because that’s what it means to love God and neighbor.

    If you are assuming that I don’t spend time in loving and godly relationships with LGBTQ persons, then you assume incorrectly. I have a number of homosexual family members and friends, and the friend most instrumental in leading me to Christ is a repentant and former homosexual. They love me and respect me for where I stand, because I don’t compromise my beliefs to accommodate them. And they know I love and respect them as they are, thought I believe they should turn their lives over to Christ and hope and pray that they do.

    Families and friends can walk together in love in spite of different beliefs, in the world.

    But in the church, the standard must be the authority of God and His word. Otherwise we cease to be The Church and become just another political institution.

  10. Thankful,
    I noticed in none of your post do use scripture, The Word of God? If I may let me enlighten you on the consequences of your, if I may say, Feelings position. Lets go with that. First a little background, I was in a Pentecostal church for several decades. I raised my family in one particular church in California. The pastor was exceptional, moderate and wise. I would still do it over again with some adjustments though. This was a very spiritual church, everyone got along, very few problems, “one mind and one accord”. The Pastor made one error, a huge error with catastrophic consequences. The majority of church were families and married couples. But, there was a small group of young and middle aged woman he personally counseled, about 7 or 8 of them. This group consisted of lesbians, feminist and a couple that came from abused backgrounds. Fine so far. The problems start as this group had morphed into a “special” click. They never associated with the rest of the church, ever. They never assimilated with “the body”. They sat together, they lived together. Even at picnics they would maintain their separation on the outskirts. Let me debunk any assumptions, this was a very loving church and the remaining majority of the church was more than willing to fellowship with them. On the contrary they went out of their way to avoid us. It was like this for decades. Simple they got special attention and treatment, are you following me? Because the Pastor focused his time on this group the rest of the church, the core of the church its families suffered. They not only suffered but there was almost complete devastation. This time period ran from the late 1970’s to 2000. The most critical time period was the 1980’s to about 1997. Because of this “special treatment” the final divorce rate was close to 90% ( that is ninety percent) among the married couples. And if I had time I could also explain that aspect. Families destroyed, children backslid into alcohol, drugs. even witchcraft, parents divorced. Lets talk about God’s judgment in this, the assist pastor who eventually took over, his wife died of cancer, his children left the church. New people stopped coming, who would want to get mixed up with this mess. The ones who were there stopped going to church. Today the doors to this church are locked. Is this the experiment you too want to try? In my view the whole church was sacrificed for a few. Most of the woman in this special group went back to homosexuality and hard core feminism. Some into witchcraft. My observation these two different groups cannot coexist on this earth or in heaven. One or the other will rule over the weaker group. And you believe this is spreading the Love of God. There are NO clicks in heaven.

  11. Tradition…you can’t have it both ways…..if we believe in Gay marriage…then we must also abandon infant baptism. For if we have a debate with a Baptist on the subject of infant baptism and only use the scriptures…we must admit that we do not have enough evidence (or not as much as they do) to support our practice. At some point in our discussion…we must turn to the tradition of the church…and at that point the Baptists have to admit that tradition is on our side.

    So therefore, if someone supports gay marriage, then they must throw out church tradition as a way of understanding truth. Because homosexuality has been viewed as a sin for thousands of years. We cannot use tradition where we want, and abandon it where we feel it is not to our advantage. Yes, pro-gay activists can twist scripture, use emotional arguments and terms such as discrimination, but they cannot argue with the church’s understanding over the years that homosexuality is a sin…period.

    This new part or sect of Methodism that will happen when we split…not if but when, I fear will be so close to a Universalist Church that many will not be able to tell the difference. My only concern is that when the split happens, that people will not be so in love with their church buildings that they compromise with doctrine.

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