"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." –Matthew 18:20 (New International Version)
That's not how every Methodist church feels about LGBTQ marriage, but Andy Oliver, the pastor at Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, certainly sees it that way – and Oliver's remained steadfast in this, even when, in late February, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church ruled it would stand by its (some would say) dated and hateful stance on banning LGBTQ couples
from receiving the sacrament of marriage. In non-religious terms, gay people can't get married in the Methodist Church.
Unless they attend Allendale United Methodist, where Oliver's been resolute in his belief that spirituality matters more than doctrine, and vowed to continue performing LGBTQ marriages.
One Tampa pastor – Rev. Brent Byerman, of Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church – took offense with Oliver's interpretation of the whole "love one another" thing: He complained to the bishop of the Florida Conference when Oliver married two women at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum on Mar. 16.
Oliver, along with his accuser, Byerman, will appear before Bishop Ken Carter, whose office is at 450 MLK Jr. Ave. in Lakeland, at 3 p.m. on May 29. At that time, Bishop Carter – whose phone number is 863-688-5563, ext. 151 – could strip Oliver of his credentials, which could mean that Carter – whose email address is email@example.com – could install another pastor at Allendale UMC, one with greater sympathies to Leviticus ("You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination," Lev. 18:22) than to Corinthians ("And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," 1 Cor. 13:13).
Of course, it might not come to removing Oliver from his church.
"That would be a long process that would involve a church trial with my clergy colleagues serving as a jury. I do not think that is the direction this is headed," Oliver said told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay
Friday morning. "I hope the complaint will be resolved, dropped, or dismissed. I do not believe the United Methodist denomination in Florida has any interest in doing more harm to LGBTQ persons."
In a Facebook post
explaining his position and – among other things – how the LGBTQ community, not Oliver, is the real victim, Oliver points out that Jesus broke Holy Law to heal on the Sabbath. Oliver also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "There are two types of laws: just and unjust."
The pastor told Creative Loafing
, "I do not believe same-sex love is sinful. Quite the opposite … it is life-giving and beautiful. I believe LGBTQ people are made perfectly in the image of God. Our communities are blessed by their desire to show the world what love looks like through their commitment to one another. I can think of no better witness of perseverance, courage, and fidelity than their stories."
How does Oliver feel about putting his livelihood on the line for his belief that two people who love each other?
"I have no other alternative."
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