Oak Lawn United Methodist Church on Sunday will self-appoint two LGBTQ staff members to pastor positions after their requests for appointments were rejected by the bishop of North Texas.
According to MSN, The Rev. Rachel Baughman will appoint Isabel Marquez and Ryan Wager, staff members at Oak Lawn UMC who respectively identify as lesbian and gay, without the authorization of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The act is considered “civil disobedience” and defiance against the church. Unlike other denominations, bishops within the Methodist Church traditionally appoint local and elder pastors to serve a congregation. The move comes as the Methodist Church formally splits over the issue of LGBTQ marriage.
“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,” Baughman said.
Wager and Marquez went through a certification and licensing process to serve as local pastors through the North Texas Conference. They applied with the intent of being appointed at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, located in the middle of Dallas’ LGBTQ neighborhood.
The months-long process involves mentorship, interviews, and Methodist licensing school. For those who go through the process, the goal is to eventually be appointed as a pastor.
But as Wager and Marquez were finishing up the licensing process last week, Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Conference told Oak Lawn UMC leaders that their request to appoint Wager and Marquez as pastors would be denied.
The North Texas Conference did not cite a reason for why the appointment was not approved, Oak Lawn UMC leaders say. The North Texas Conference said in a statement to The Dallas Morning News that they would not publicize why the appointments were denied.
The denied appointments are a blow to Wager and Marquez, who, after years of dealing with the personal turmoil of their identities and the church, wanted to fully pursue their calling in ministry at Oak Lawn UMC.
Wager left Christianity after coming out as gay in his 20s, but he found his way back to church after his father died. And Oak Lawn UMC felt like home. “I knew at the time that being gay meant I couldn’t be a pastor,” he said. “But I found Oak Lawn, and I realized that there was a place at the table for me.”