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1572Complaint Against Seattle UM Pastor Dropped

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  • CORNET
    Jun 1, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE

      Two stories, one from UMNS and the other from RMNetwork.
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      May 31, 2002
      Complaint against Seattle pastor dropped
      By United Methodist News Service

      A complaint against an openly gay United Methodist pastor in the
      denomination's Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference was
      dismissed after a May 30 hearing.

      The conference committee on investigation decided to drop a complaint
      against the Rev. Mark Edward Williams. Consequently, he will not face
      a church trial and will continue to serve as pastor of Woodland Park
      United Methodist Church in Seattle.

      The complaint alleged that a statement by Williams about being a gay
      man, read into the record of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
      meeting on June 15, 2001, was incompatible with the denomination�s
      standards for clergy.

      A conference press release announced the decision by its nine-member
      committee, which deliberated about the complaint following the
      hearing. In a statement, the committee said it "found there was not
      reasonable cause to forward this matter for a church trial."



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      May 31, 2002
      The United Methodist Church drops charges against "out" Gay pastor
      Reconciling Ministries Network

      Seattle: After hearing the case of the Rev. Mark Edward Williams,
      pastor of Seattle's Woodland Park United Methodist Church, the Annual
      Conference Committee on Investigation today found insufficient
      evidence to sustain the complaint of homosexual practice filed
      against him.

      Williams is now free to continue his career as an ordained United
      Methodist minister.

      After Williams publicly "came out" as a gay man following a report to
      his Annual (regional) Conference in Tacoma last June, Bishop Elias
      Galvan of Seattle said he felt compelled to file an official
      complaint, charging him with "practices declared by The United
      Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching."


      The complaint went to the Committee on Investigation which acts
      similarly to a grand jury, seeking to discover whether there is
      sufficient evidence against a person to warrent a trial. Meeting in
      Seattle today, the nine-member committee of seven clergy and two lay
      members took only two hours to render its finding.

      In a terse statement by the committee chairperson, the Rev. Patricia
      Simpson of Seattle, reported that by unanimous vote the committee did
      not find sufficient evidence to bring formal charges against
      Williams. The committee report now ends any judicial procedure
      against the popular minister, and he is free to continue as pastor of
      the Woodland Park Church.


      His Woodland Park congregation has supported him throughout this
      yearlong process. Maggie Brown, chair of the congregation's Committee
      on Pastor-Parish Relations, said Williams' ministry has been both
      deeply spiritual and truly uniting for the mid-sized congregation.
      "We are deeply pleased and relieved that we will be able to continue
      as the beneficiaries of his effective ministry here at Woodland Park
      Church," she said. "I wish every church could have a pastor as fine
      as ours."

      Amory Peck, of Bellingham, coordinator of the Pacific Northwest
      Reconciling United Methodists, exuded, "Today we are rejoicing as
      Mark Williams is freed to continue his calling. Now we look forward
      to working within this invigorated spirit of justice and
      reconciliation in the United Methodist Church."


      In a statement issued this morning in Chicago, the national
      Reconciling Ministries Network Executive Director, Marilyn Alexander
      said, "We applaud Bishop Elias Galvan�s affirmation of Mark�s
      effective ministry and Mark�s courage to speak openly and with
      integrity. Our hope is that more bishops and LGBT clergy will work
      together to find prophetic and innovative solutions to this unjust
      system."

      "The Seattle decision will have a positive impact on thousands of
      United Methodist clergy nation-wide," according to the Rev. Paul
      Beeman of the Parents Reconciling Network. He explained that the
      Judicial Council earlier ruled that, for evidence against suspected
      homosexuals to be sufficient, Investigating Committees must be
      informed of the clergy's most intimate sexual activities-but only by
      those suspected of practicing homosexual behavior. He noted that few,
      if any, clergy may be willing to answer such inappropriate questions.


      The Reconciling Ministries Network is a national network of United
      Methodist-focused organizations advocating for the full inclusion of
      persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the
      life of the Church. Founded in 1984, RMN consists of 178 United
      Methodist congregations, 25 campus ministries, 13 Reconciling
      Communities, and over 17,000 individual members. Organizations
      involved include the Parents� Reconciling Network, United Methodists
      of Color, RMN student movement, the Clergy Alliance, and newly formed
      Church Within A Church.

      The decision of the committee, composed of seven clergy and two lay
      members, cannot be appealed, according to conference officials. The
      committee does not determine guilt or innocence, but whether
      reasonable grounds exist to support charges in a church trial. Five
      votes were required for Williams to be brought to trial.

      Williams� statement in the 2001 conference session led the conference
      to seek a ruling from the church�s highest court as to an apparent
      conflict between its prohibition of appointing "self-avowed
      practicing homosexuals" to lead congregations and its requirement
      that all clergy in good standing be given an appointment.

      Bishop Elias Galvan filed complaints against Williams and another
      clergyperson following the Judicial Council's declaratory decision
      that the admission of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" was
      sufficient cause for a pastor to undergo a ministerial review. The
      council, which serves as the denomination's supreme court, rendered
      the decision during its Oct. 24-26 session in Nashville, Tenn. Galvan
      filed the complaints in December. That action started the process
      which concluded with the committee�s decision.

      In their own press release, members of the Woodland Park church, who
      had supported Williams throughout his ordeal, expressed joy that the
      complaint had been dropped and that he would be able to continue to
      serve the congregation. He has been the senior pastor there since
      1999.

      Williams, who was pleased about the decision, told United Methodist
      News Service that he had decided to focus "on answering the questions
      they would ask as clearly and honestly as I could" when he
      participated in the hearing.

      But he said he also has made clear that the statement he made last
      June was meant to refer only to his sexual orientation and "at no
      point have I ever intended to discuss my sexual behavior."

      What has sustained Williams during what has been a long, frustrating
      year, he said, is "the adamant support" of the Woodland Park
      congregation. "I never guessed their capacity to walk with me and
      care for me and advocate on behalf of our ministry together," he
      added.

      Contact:
      Jenn Williams
      www.RMNetwork.org 3801 N. Keeler Ave.
      Chicago, IL 60641
      Phone 773-736-5526
      Fax 773-736-5475

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