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Pastor Punished Over Gay Nuptials

Religion: Methodist jury suspends him for disobedience in officiating at 'holy union' of two men.

March 27, 1999|From Associated Press

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — A Methodist minister who officiated at the "marriage" of two gay men was suspended Friday for disobeying church law. It was the first test of the denomination's ban on same-sex ceremonies.

The suspension begins July 1 and continues until the Rev. Gregory Dell agrees to comply with church law or until the law is changed.

Earlier Friday, a jury of pastors decided, 10-3, that Dell disobeyed church law when he presided over the "holy union" of two Chicago men in September.

Earlier Friday, Dell, 53, said he would continue blessing same-sex unions if allowed to remain a Methodist minister. He testified that he was being faithful to his vow to minister to all people when he blessed the "holy union" of Karl Reinhardt and Keith Eccarius.

"If I can't be a pastor fully to all the people . . . you don't want me as a pastor. You really don't," the 30-year pastor said, choking back tears.

Dell said he doesn't believe he was guilty of disobedience: "On the contrary, I felt that the only way I could be obedient was to conduct that service."

Dell performed the ceremony about a month after the Methodist church banned same-sex marriages.

More such trials are expected. A bishop in California filed a complaint Tuesday against 69 Methodist ministers who gathered at a Sacramento church in January to bless the union of a lesbian couple.

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