The United Methodist Church and Rev. Anna Blaedel, Executive Director and Campus Minister at the Wesley Center, have come to a “just resolution” of a complaint the church filed against Rev. Blaedel for officiating a same-sex wedding. The document, which both parties signed to end the complaint process, acknowledges differences of opinion in the church about marriage equality, but also acknowledges the harm done to LGBT Methodists by the church’s policies.
On April 1 2017, Rev. Blaedel officiated a wedding between two women: another reverend Blaedel befriended in seminary and the woman she was in love with. Three days later, a complaint was filed by the Appointive Cabinet of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church alleging she had committed chargeable offenses banned by the Book of Discipline, the guiding document of the United Methodist Church:
“[P]ractices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies” and “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church.”
This language was added to the the Book of Discipline in the ’70s, Rev. Blaedel said, and can be changed by a vote at the church’s international convention.
Rev. Blaedel said she knew performing the ceremony was a violation of church rules, and could have cost her position in ministry, but that not officiating would have been wrong. “An unjust law is no law at all,” Rev. Blaedel said, quoting St. Augustine.
In the closing statement of the resolution, Bishop Laurie Haller wrote, “In a time when there is increasing mistrust and advocacy for division in the United Methodist Church, we believe that it is time to take a new approach to our impasse around human sexuality.” The resolution did not say specifically what that way forward would look like, but said the church was committed to continuing the conversation. The church has appointed a Commission on a Way Forward to examine the matter.
“The Appointive Cabinet desires to avoid further Cabinet-initiated or conference-initiated complaints and trials regarding United Methodist clergy officiating same-gender weddings until the work of the Commission on a Way Forward is completed and acted upon by the General Conference in 2019,” the resolution stated.
However, the resolution urged ministers of the church to refrain from performing same-sex weddings until that commission’s work is complete. The resolution did acknowledge the harm done to LGBTQ Methodists who can’t get married in the church, but said that pastors and members of the church who are committed to upholding the Book of Discipline are also harmed by same-sex weddings in the Methodist church.
“We reject claims that LGBTQ lives and loves harm our covenant with one another, or divide the church,” Rev. Blaedel and supporter Rev. Tyler Schwaller wrote in the resolution.