Local Pastor Suspended For Officiating Same-Sex Marriage

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 27, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - For Doug Hagler and Frank Moore, a 15-year relationship culminated in a March wedding.

“I never would have dreamed that that moment would come for us,” Doug said.

Their wedding took place before the latest Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage nationwide, so they were married in North Carolina. Their pastor back in Nashville was willing to make the drive.

“The decision was one of joy for me because I wouldn't treat two couples differently in my congregation,” said Rev. Pam Hawkins, as associate pastor with the Belmont United Methodist Church.

But, months later she faces suspension. The Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, which governs Methodist churches in the state, handed down a 90-day suspension without pay.

Methodist Clergy are still not allowed to officiate same-sex weddings. Although she was warned there could be repercussions, Rev. Hawkins said she couldn’t believe it.

“We're both called to not discriminate against anyone in our congregations,” she said, “that all means all in our denomination. And yet at the same time we have these few rules, these handful of rules that are considered chargeable offenses.”

Bishop William McAlilly heads the Tennessee conference. In a statement to NewsChannel 5 he quoted the Book of Discipline, which guides all Methodist clergy, explaining some of the rules. The statement included:

-We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.
-We affirm that God's grace is available to all.
-We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.
-We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.
-We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

But he said officiating same-sex marriages is still not allowed.

Rev. Hawkins said this is a scene that has unfortunately unfolded several times throughout history.

“There have always been rules in the denomination that have historically been revealed later to have been unjust, rules against women, rules against people of color,” she said.

Belmont administrators say they’re proud the church has historically been progressive on related matters.

Rev. Hawkins teaches classes on Christianity and the LGBT community and said it's not hard to grapple with what some see as conflicting interests. She simply concentrates on love.

“I just go straight to the heart of what was Jesus all about,” she said.

With her gone for three months, Doug said for many in the congregation, the church won't be the same.

“I’m still hopeful that somebody, somewhere will say ‘wait this isn't gonna happen, we’re not gonna do this,’” he said.

He laments that his moment of happiness could bring grief to a pastor he knows and loves.

Click here to read the full statement from Bishop McAlilly


Click here to read the statement from Belmont United Methodist Church as it explains why it stands by its pastor.