Church Trial of Former Yale Dean is Dismissed

Mar 11, 2014

Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree.
Credit religionnews.com

The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has announced that the case against the Reverend Dr. Thomas Ogletree is dismissed.

Dr. Ogletree, a Connecticut resident and former dean of Yale Divinity School was to have faced a church trial for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son.

WNPR’s Diane Orson spoke with Yale’s current Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling, who praised the decision to move the matter out of the realm of trials and into public discussion.

Greg Sterling: The reason is that,  to be blunt, I think Christianity was going to be put on trial, rather than Tom Ogletree. And I say that because in New York and in New England, same-sex marriage is fairly well received.

People have the view that Christianity is oftentimes a form of religion that deprives peoples of rights, that constricts rather than liberates. This trial would have simply played directly into that. Now if you went to a different region of the United States, the dynamics would be different. It doesn’t mean the principles would be different, but the dynamics would be different.

So especially in this setting, it think it was a superb move to put the issue into a realm where the participants can debate and discuss openly without feeling like it’s a heresy trial.

Diane Orson: What will happen now?

Well, they’re obligated to meet at least once to have a public hearing. There will be more discussions. I don’t look for more trials to happen anytime soon, at least not in this part of the world.

One factor that weighs within the United Methodist Church is that it’s a global church. So even if most United Methodists in North America were in favor of same sex relationships, and there’s a split among the United Methodists in North America, they would be easily out-voted by their southern counterparts, that is, people from Africa, and from the Southern Hemisphere would out-vote them. So it wouldn’t go through. So given that, within the United Methodist Church, the best thing they can do is to have discussions and to have a means, a ‘modis vivendi’ that will allow people of differing views to live together without tearing the United Methodist Church apart.

The most important thing to me is that the people involved found a way to negotiate this without putting it in a polarizing trial scene.

I think that we have to realize that there are differences in Christian Churches. And those differences are held by people who are honest people, who are trying to do what they think is right on both sides. And we have to learn how to talk about our differences without fracturing multiple times and without putting ourselves in polemical situations that force fractures.