1572Complaint Against Seattle UM Pastor Dropped
- Jun 1, 2002CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
Two stories, one from UMNS and the other from RMNetwork.
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."
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
Williams is now free to continue his career as an ordained United
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
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
"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
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
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