WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Two homosexual men in North Carolina have filed a complaint against their United Methodist minister for refusing to “marry” them, stating that he has failed “to perform the work of the ministry.”
Scott Chappell and Kenneth Barner, who attend Green Street United Methodist Church in Winson-Salem, filed the complaint with the Western North Carolina Office of the United Methodist Church late last month, charging their leader, Kelly Carpenter (male), with discrimination.
“On October 26, 2014, we asked Carpenter to officiate at our wedding and he has refused to do so, citing church rules from the United Methodist Book of Discipline that forbids pastors from celebrating homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies,” the complaint reads. “Carpenter’s refusal to perform our wedding violates our rights as members of his church and my fiance and I wish to charge him for this offense.”
It further outlines that Chappell and Barner are “active members” of the congregation, and that Barner is “the current chair of the Leadership Council and often leads the praise and worship portion of the service.” The two became “engaged” during a Sunday service before the congregation.
“My fiance and I are members of this church, having pledged to uphold the work of the church through our prayers, presence, gifts and service,” the complaint continues. “Carpenter has accepted the call to be our pastor, accepted the call to be in ministry to all people, and accepted our membership in the church but is refusing to ‘perform the work of the ministry.'”
Chappell and Barner also state that because the United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits “racial or gender discrimination,” Carpenter is violating the rules as they allege that the is discriminating against the men because they are both males. They contend that the denomination’s stance is therefore contradictory as it decries discrimination but prohibits ministers from marrying those of the same sex.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained as ministers in the denomination. It also forbids ministers from hosting or participating in “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”
“The discriminatory and offensive language in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline and Carpenter’s refusal to marry my fiance and me has caused great spiritual harm to us both,” the men claim. “[My] fiance and I have been victimized by Carpenter’s adherence to United Methodist Church rules, which is a chargeable offense per our Book of Discipline.”
But some are wondering whether the complaint is actually an orchestrated effort by both Chappell and Barner, along with Carpenter, to seek to change the denomination’s stance on same-sex “marriage.” Carpenter told the United Methodist News Service that he declined to officiate the ceremony because he feared the consequences, but stated that “If there was a way for me to be a co-signer with the complaint, [I would].”
Additionally, according to reports, Green Street United Methodist Church announced last year out of protest that would not host any wedding ceremonies in its sanctuary until the denomination changed its policies on same-sex “marriage.”
Those within the United Methodist denomination remain split on the issue of homosexuality. In an article entitled “Why Many Methodists Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage,” John Lemperis, the Director of the UM Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said that the Bible is crystal clear on the matter.
“Even liberal Biblical scholars now agree that the Old and New Testaments are very clear in their moral disapproval of homosexual practice,” he wrote. “More fundamentally, Scripture paints a beautiful picture of marriage as a holy covenant of intensely intimate, self-giving community between man and woman, uniting the two most basic, equal categories of humanity.”
“We submit to Jesus as Lord,” Lemperis stated. “If He is truly Lord, then no area of our lives can be off-limits to Him. Jesus spoke strongly about the centrality of self-denial in following Him, which often means dramatic personal sacrifices, including not acting on powerful desires for things outside of God’s best for us. … Jesus and new life in Him are more than worth it.”