Iowa City, Iowa — A campus minister at the University of Iowa is facing possible censure from United Methodist leadership for officiating a same-sex ceremony for another female clergy member.
Anna Blaedel, the executive director of the university’s Wesley Student Center, presided over the ceremony in Oklahoma on April 4, despite knowledge that doing so is forbidden by the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
“I knew that officiating at this wedding could cost me my credentials, could cost me my job, could cost me my health insurance and could cost me my income,” she told the Press-Citizen. “But I also knew that saying ‘no’ to one of my best friends would cost me my integrity and my soul.”
The Appointive Cabinet of the Iowa Conference consequently filed a unanimous complaint against Blaedel last month for engaging in a practice that is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” She met with the cabinet this week over the matter, and states that there is disagreement between the parties as to what spiritual harm was caused by her actions and how to make things right.
The board of directors over the Wesley Student Center supports Blaedel and claims that it is rather United Methodist policies that are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“The board rejects this formal complaint, and the policies of the discipline that it is grounded in, as discriminatory and unjust and laments the disruption of ministry it will cause,” it wrote in an open letter, viewable online.
“We find the United Methodist Church’s continued discrimination and harm of the LGBTQ community through actions such as this complaint to be incompatible with Jesus’ teaching,” the board said. “Such a complaint and such policies have no place in a denomination professing to have open hearts, open minds and open doors.”
This is not the first time a complaint has been filed against Blaedel. In August, she declared before the Iowa United Methodist Church’s Annual Conference that she herself is a lesbian.
“I am a ‘self-avowed practicing homosexual.’ Or, in my language, I am out, queer, partnered clergy,” she announced to the crowd of 1,400 attendees.
Three ministers immediately filed a complaint, noting that 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.
However, charges were later dropped by Julius Trimble, a bishop of the Iowa Conference, when a resolution could not be reached as Blaedel refused to walk away from the homosexual lifestyle. A complaint was subsequently filed against Trimble for his inaction.
“We were disappointed in the way Trimble handled the complaint,” one of the complainants, Chris Downey, told the United Methodist publication Good News. “If he thought Blaedel’s admission was in defiance of the discipline, then he should’ve proceeded accordingly. If he did not, he should’ve had the courage of his convictions. He should’ve openly told the people of the Iowa Annual Conference why he had no intention of holding Blaedel accountable to her ordination vows.”
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, says that the Bible is crystal clear on the issue of homosexuality.
“Even liberal Biblical scholars now agree that the Old and New Testaments are very clear in their moral disapproval of homosexual practice,” he writes. “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 states. “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.”