CINCINNATI, Ohio — A leader of an “inclusive, progressive and reconciling” United Methodist church in Ohio will only face one of three initial charges after the West Ohio Conference Committee on Investigation decided to pursue just one of the complaints filed against him.
David Meredith, 61, who has led Clifton United Methodist Church for five years, became the subject of complaints after he “wed” his male partner of nearly 30 years in May 2016.
“This effort is to make caricatures of gay and lesbian folks,” he asserted to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It is a threat hanging over my head, a threat of bad theology that says I will burn in Hell.”
According to the outlet, among the 11 complainants are Mark Rowland, the pastor of Anderson Hills United Methodist Church, and Derek Russell, pastor of Hillsboro First United Methodist Church.
The West Ohio Conference Committee on Investigation was subsequently tasked to consider the charges that Meredith had engaged in “immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage,” “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual” and “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church.”
The United Methodist Book of Discipline specifically states that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.” Meredith was ordained in 1997, while being in a homosexual relationship.
On Sunday, the committee decided to only pursue the charge of “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church” for Meredith’s same-sex ceremony in violation of Church regulations.
“Even though the complainants and some others in the United Methodist Church want to restrain me and all lesbian and gay clergy, the Spirit will not be restrained. The gospel will not be contained. The good news will not be locked up,” Meredith said during his hearing.
“Is the Spirit wrong in welcoming gay and lesbians as they follow Jesus and answer His call?” he continued. “No, it’s not wrong because the Spirit forms and reforms the Church. The Spirit shapes and even changes how we relate to one another. That Spirit is busy right here, right now.”
He asserted that the same Spirit that began the Protestant Reformation and formed the “Wesleyan tradition of personal and social holiness” is the same spirit that is calling homosexuals into the ministry.
“You see, church order and discipline are formed and reformed,” Meredith asserted. “It is the same with the United Methodist Book of Discipline. It is more than a fixed document. It is a process, a temporary construct, formed and reformed every four years, and practiced and challenged daily as the Spirit shapes and reshapes the United Methodist Church and its people for faithfulness to their time and context.”
While some remarked on the Clifton United Methodist Church Facebook page that the dismissal of two of the three charges was an “answer to prayer,” not all United Methodists believe that homosexual relationships are permissible in the eyes of God.
In an article entitled “Why Many Methodists Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage,” John Lomperis, 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.”
As previously reported, Christians believe that homosexuality—like any sin—is a part of the Adamic sin nature that must be regenerated by the second birth, as Jesus outlined in John 3:5-7, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Respected Bible teacher A.W. Pink also once expounded, “Why does the sinner choose a life of sinful indulgence? Because he prefers it. Man chooses that which is according to his nature, and therefore, before he will ever choose or prefer that which is divine or spiritual, a new nature must be imparted to him. In other words, he must be born again.”