A homosexual couple in Winston-Salem, in coordination with their pastor, has filed a complaint seeking to overturn a long-standing policy of the United Methodist Church (UMC) that prohibits ministers from solemnizing same-sex unions. According to UMC News, a homosexual couple at Green Street United Methodist Church recently filed a formal complaint with the UMC against Rev. Kelly Carpenter, alleging “gender discrimination” and “failure to perform the work of the ministry,” after he refused to officiate their same-sex wedding ceremony. Rev. Carpenter told UMC News he is “sympathetic” to the men’s complaint, and that “If there was a way for me to be a co-signer with the complaint, I think it’s right on the money.” According to Rev. Carpenter, the complaint “really calls out the contradictions in [the UMC] Book of Discipline, which calls us to be in ministry with all people.”
The complaint against Rev. Carpenter, which is addressed to Bishop Larry Goodpastor, head of the Western North Carolina Conference of the UMC, was filed October 30. It states that Rev. Carpenter “refused” to officiate the wedding ceremony for the men in October, “citing church rules from the [UMC] Book of Discipline that forbids pastors from celebrating homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.” According to the complaint, Rev. Carpenter’s refusal to perform the men’s same-sex union ceremony “violates our rights as members of his church.” The complaint also alleges that the men have been “victimized by Reverend Carpenter’s adherence to [UMC] rules…”
This is not the first time the church has made news on the issue of redefining marriage. In March 2013, Rev. Carpenter announced that Green Street United Methodist Church would no longer hold wedding ceremonies at the church until the UMC reverses policy and allows ministers to perform same-sex unions.
It is important to note that the complaint against Rev. Carpenter was filed within the UMC denomination, which began debating church policy on marriage and homosexuality long before the federal courts legalized same-sex unions in North Carolina. The complaint never mentions the federal court ruling ordering the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in North Carolina; however, the timing of the complaint highlights an important question facing pastors and churches across the state: Will the government’s recognition of same-sex unions lead to greater pressure on churches that adhere to the Biblical definition of marriage, either from within denominational or church walls, or from outside forces?