Virginia Clergy Not to Face Trial; Lost Salary Subsidized by Supporters

Reconciling Ministries NetworkUnited Methodists are sending a message to conferences like Virginia that would seek to deter LGBTQ people from receiving the full ministry of the church: We will support clergy that The UMC attempts to penalize.
Two clergy in Virginia will not face trial for officiating same-sex weddings, according to a statement today by conference officials. Rev. Amanda Garber was given a one-month suspension without pay for presiding over the wedding of Brittany and Lindsay, two of her congregants. Prof. Emeritus at Shenandoah University, Rev. Dr. John D. Copenhaver, was suspended for three months for officiating at the wedding of Sarah and Rev. Delyn Celec who married in part to care for their niece and two nephews in need of family following the murder of the children’s mother.
In response to the financial deterrent the Virginia Conference is choosing to place upon Rev. Garber, Reconciling United Methodists across the country have contributed to a clergy defense and resiliency fund, and a check is being sent today in the full amount Rev. Garber would have otherwise lost. Donations to this fund are currently needed to aid clergy facing unjust penalties like this one.
In a statement, Rev. Garber said:
I am grateful for the support of so many, but also saddened that my new-church-start will have to face this set-back so early in their formation. It is difficult to build denominational loyalty when the people of my church are witnessing this punitive action being taken for my being their pastor. While I am grateful that a resolution has been reached, I am overwhelmed by a deep sense of grief and sadness. I weep regularly as I continually journey with persons who harm themselves, who consider suicide, and who long to have their relationships and commitments accepted and blessed by the church. I weep with those who long to use their God-given gifts as laity and ordained clergy, but are regularly and resoundingly told ‘no.’ I weep as we hurl insults, venom, and labels at each other.  I weep as so many of my friends and colleagues leave The United Methodist Church.  I cling to the glimpses of grace and powerful support I have experienced and continue to experience on a daily basis. Most of all, I cling to the promise that God’s love is stronger than fear.
Rev. Dr. Copenhaver, who has authored a proposal for change in The UMC, is similarly saddened by the resolution reached:
Although I am relieved, and grateful to all parties, that a resolution has been reached, I am saddened the resolution did not include a clear statement by all parties that would recognize and regret the harm experienced by LGBTQ persons by the language and policies of the Book of Discipline. Further, I do not believe my actions deserve any punitive consequence. Rather I believe that pastors who respond to the pastoral needs of marginalized LGBTQ persons should be commended by The UMC. Nevertheless I have acknowledged that I have knowingly and publicly officiated at a same sex marriage, a violation of  ¶2702.1b, causing felt harm to my bishop, district superintendent, and some pastors and church members. I, therefore, accept the consequence of suspension. At the same time, I hold that the harm felt by these persons is in no way commensurate with the harm experienced by LGBTQ persons who have felt rejected by the Church’s language, have been excluded from representative ministry, and denied the blessing and support of the Church for their marriages.
The Revs. Garber and Copenhaver would like to express their deepest gratitude to their colleague and advocate, Rev. Rob Vaughn, who provided wise counsel and support through the resolution process, and are calling on all clergy, laity, and congregations to sign Altar for All to join the movement for marriage equality in The UMC.
Matt Berryman, Reconciling Ministries Network’s executive director and Bridget Cabrera, deputy director, said in a joint statement:
When the history books of a fully inclusive United Methodist Church are one day written, it will include the names of Rev. Amanda Garber and Rev. Dr. John D. Copenhaver as faithful prophets who through their Biblical Obedience helped the church find its way to end the discrimination of people who long to celebrate their love and follow their call to ministry. We will do all in our power to continue to stand by and enable clergy to do the right thing like these two have done in their witness.
The discriminatory policies of The UMC are meant to dissuade LGBTQ persons from pursuing their calls to ordained ministry, clergy from offering the ministry of marriage to prepared same-sex couples, and church leaders from supporting ministries with and for LGBTQ persons. The Clergy Defense and Resiliency Fund of Reconciling Ministries Network was established to support LGBTQ candidates through the ordination process, and United Methodists facing complaint investigations or church trials due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or service in ministry with LGBTQ persons.
. . .
Download a PDF of this press release
Media contact: Rev. Andy Oliver, RMN director of communications,

Leave a Reply

11 Comments on "Virginia Clergy Not to Face Trial; Lost Salary Subsidized by Supporters"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

A disappointing just resolution. Looks like I will be writing a check to the good folks at IRD.

George Nixon Shuler

My checks have the National Organization for Women logo on them. I figure yous must have Vladamir Putin’s visage then, huh?

Elaine T

Still praying, Brother George stay on subject.!

George Nixon Shuler

My friend, can you tell me what it is you are praying for?

Karen Booth
While the Reconciling Ministries Network news release claims that “United Methodists” are behind the group’s efforts to subsidize dissident clergy, that isn’t the whole story. Last year RMN received almost $200,000 from the Arcus Foundation, a secular political activist group, for the express purpose of supporting “clergy who engage in acts of ecclesial disobedience in the name of LGBTQ justice and work with coalitions for policy change within the United Methodist Church.” (See — the first entry under “R.”) Since 2009, Arcus has contributed $1.3 million to RMN in order to undermine the moral teaching of the UMC. Don’t… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler

What makes you think folks aren’t “living with the outcomes of their actions”?

thanks for the link to the Arcus Foundation. I’m always searching for new sources for grant requests and have a program in mind that’d benefit from their largesse. I think your assertion though that they seek to “undermine” the UMC’s moral teaching, though, is ridiculous, because it is they and RMN who hold the moral high ground here, not the forces of prejudice and ignorance.

Wes Andrews

Every time I read statements like “forces of hate and ignorance” I think the person is writting about progressives.

James Ballard
It’s really sad. I guess your ordination vows mean nothing. Liar, Liar This is just rebellion. All of this is getting old. We go through all the little debates on forums like this and run through the same arguments over and over. Open financed rebellion. Wow! The Bishops are failing their vows also. The sad thing is that if the General Conference were to vote conservatively on this issue again, the rebellion will keep on happening. There is not enough courage or integrity or conviction to start your own denomination. There really is nothing else to do except vote again… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler

Sounds like a plan. Thank you.

Richard Hicks

Madam Justice Ginsburg’s reaction if she lives long enough to hear this “divorce property settlement” case – “Oy Vey! These Methodists are back at the Supreme Court. We need that nice Jewish boy Saul here to help settle this.”

George Nixon Shuler

Thank you for the good news out of the Old Dominion, and that appellation applies not only to the state’s nickname but for the “old dominion” of prejudice over human decency as well and it is especially apropos since the enemies of reality seek “dominion” over others for the whole world to experience their abuse. And an especial thanks for the link to the fund for the support of pastors unjustifiably subjected to the harshness of those seeking such dominions. I’ve already made a donation and will be sharing it with others so they can do the same.

%d bloggers like this: