A formal complaint has been filed with United Methodist Bishop Larry Goodpaster over a same-sex wedding performed in an uptown Charlotte church that violated the denomination’s ban on gay marriage.
On Tuesday, a statement from the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church said that Goodpaster “has begun” a process that could potentially lead to a reprimand or even a church trial for Pastor Val Rosenquist of First United Methodist Church of Charlotte.
She and retired Bishop Melvin Talbert, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., both officiated at the wedding last Saturday of John Romano and Jim Wilborne. The ceremony was held at First United Methodist, long a gay-welcoming church where the couple are active members.
The United Methodist Church sanctions only a marriage between a man and a woman. Its Book of Discipline forbids Methodist clergy from performing or blessing same-sex marriages or holding them in one of the denomination’s churches.
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The Book of Discipline’s specific words: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
Goodpaster, who is expected to retire in September, leads the Western N.C. conference, which includes Charlotte.
To file a formal complaint against a minister, a person has to be a member of the United Methodist Church. According to the denomination’s rules, the initial process triggered by the complaint against Rosenquist could last up to 90 days.
Citing the confidentiality of the process, Michael Rich, the conference’s web and communications manager, would not identify the person who filed the complaint, but did clarify that the process will focus on Rosenquist. A formal complaint against a bishop is handled through another process, he said.
In 2013, Talbert – a civil rights leader in the 1960s – faced a formal complaint after he married a same-sex couple in Alabama. That process lasted about a year, he told the Observer, and did not result in a church trial that could have led to his being defrocked.
A report on that case by the United Methodist News Service said that church law requires that complaints against bishops be heard in the jurisdiction where the bishop is a member. For Talbert, that is the Western Jurisdiction, which encompasses the eight westernmost conferences in the United States. Before his retirement, Talbert served in the San Francisco area.
That complaint against Talbert ended with a “Just Resolution Agreement,” which called for all parties to follow the Book of Discipline. The resolution also expressed regret, the news report said, “over harm to gay and lesbian sisters and brothers, and all those involved, through the complaint process.”
As for the complaint filed over the weekend against Rosenquist, the statement Tuesday said that “Bishop Goodpaster has begun the process outlined in paragraph 363 of The 2012 Book of Discipline. Because a confidential process is now underway, there will be no further statements until the process is completed.”
Both Talbert, 81, and Rosenquist, 59, said they alerted Goodpaster before the wedding that they planned to go ahead with it, whatever the consequences. Both clergy told the Observer after the church’s Sunday services that they consider their denomination’s ban on same-sex marriage discriminatory against gays and lesbians and said they were obeying a higher power – the Bible – in performing the ceremony.
On Tuesday, Rosenquist had no comment on the complaint filed against her. Talbert could not be reached.
Tim Funk: 704-358-5703; @timfunk