In an act of defiance, a Methodist Church in Texas has appointed two LGBT staff members to pastoral positions after requests have been denied.
On Sunday, Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas self-appointed two LGBTQ pastors after the North Texas Bishop's refusal to grant their request for appointments. Rev. Rachel Baughman appointed Isabel Marquez and Ryan Wager, who identify as lesbian and gay respectively, without the authorization from the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
MSN reported that the self-appointment of LGBTQ pastors by the Oak Lawn United Methodist Church is considered "civil disobedience" and defiance against the church. The United Methodist Church traditionally appoints local and elder pastors to lead a congregation. But Oak Lawn UMC's self-appointment of LGBTQ pastors comes as the congregation formally splits over LGBTQ issues.
Oak Lawn Claims 'Moral Authority' to Self-Appoint LGBTQ Pastors
Wager and Marquez had gone through a certification and licensing process to serve as pastors through the North Texas Conference. This monthslong process includes mentorship, interviews and Methodist licensing school, with the eventual goal of becoming appointed as a pastor. However, upon completing the licensing process last week, Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference informed Oak Lawn UMC leaders that their request to appoint the LGBTQ pastors would be denied.
Leaders of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, which on its website describes itself as "inclusive, expansive, and entrepreneurial," said that the North Texas Conference failed to give a reason for their rejection of the request to appoint Wager and Marquez as pastors. But the denial of such a request was a blow to both of them, who spent years dealing with the personal turmoil of their identities and the church amidst simply wanting to fulfill their calling in ministry.
So, Oak Lawn UMC is taking it upon itself to appoint Wager and Marquez. Rev. Baughman told MSN, "While we may lack ecclesial authority to formally appoint Isabel and Ryan, we claim the moral authority to recognize the call of God upon their lives and celebrate and bless their work of pastoral ministry."
Members of LGBT Community Find a Calling in Ministry
Wager was a Christian, but left the faith in his 20s after coming out as gay. After his father passed away, he found his way back to church. He admitted that he knew at the time that "being gay" woudl mean that he "couldn't be a pastor." However, being at Oak Lawn UMC made him realize that there was "a place at the table" for people like him who were members of the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, Marquez has been part of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church for three years now but has attended church services since she was nine. Now 46 years of age, the lesbian pastor believes that her calling to ministry was something she could not ignore. Marquez came out as a lesbian more than 20 years ago and is married to another woman.
Wager and Marquez were devastated to find out that their appointment requests were rejected by the North Texas Conference. Rev. Baughman said that the two had gone through the proper process of being appointed as a pastor and even faced discrimination in every step but there were still figures within the church who fail to see them as "legitimate" just because they are members of the LGBTQ community.
This is not the first time Oak Lawn UMC has strongly voiced its support for the LGBTQ community. In fact, WFAA reported in March 2021 that the church is "a neighborhood known to be the heart of Dallas's LGBTQ community." Rev. Michael Baughman, who serves as executive director and founding pastor of the Union coffee shop on Cedar Springs Road, is supportive of same-sex marriage and plans to continue his "open-minded message," explaining further that a person's sexual orientation is "very much wrapped up in their identity." He added that the church has "a responsibility to resist" against those who continue to condemn same-sex marriages.
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