A campus minister at George Mason University is facing possible punishment In the United Methodist Church for officiating at a same-gender wedding.
Pastor Drew Ensz knew when he agreed to officiate a gay couple’s wedding in September he would be violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline, but he said he really only had one choice as part of the GMU campus ministry.
There was hope the case would end after the Methodist Church announced a proposed plan to divide, allowing United Methodist ministers to
officiate same-gender weddings, separating from traditionalist churches that oppose same-gender unions.
News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.
But last week Ensz learned Virginia’s bishop is pushing forward with the case. A judicial hearing and disciplinary action could be ahead.
“I was incredibly disappointed,” he said.
GMU student Abby Butler-Cefalo shares that disappointment.
“I almost felt a sense of pride because he was doing that because as a queer identifying individual and a student who is adopted by lesbians, the more important thing to me is an inclusive church environment.”
A spokesman for the bishop said she is bound by her oaths to uphold the Book of Discipline.
“We hope and pray that Rev. Ensz, and his supporters, will respect the process developed by the United Methodist Church and work within the church’s broad parameters as they advocate for change,” he said.
Ensz hopes the proposed church changes will take effect before his case is fully adjudicated.
“We just have to be able to stop the harm and we as a denomination need to do that,” he said.
United Methodists are expected to consider the proposed change at their conference in May.
Complete statement from the bishop's spokesman:
“Rev. Drew Ensz, Campus Ministry Director at Arise at George Mason University, has violated the United Methodist Church’s 2016 Book of Discipline which led to two complaints filed against him. Bishop Sharma Lewis is bound by oaths she took as both a pastor and a Bishop to uphold the Book of Discipline and she processed both complaints.
“As part of this undertaking, Bishop Lewis and Rev. Ensz entered into a just resolution process which has included months of patient and respectful confidential communication between them. At this point, the parties are not able to find a resolution and Bishop Lewis has referred the two complaints to the counsel for the church.
“We hope and pray that Rev. Ensz, and his supporters, will respect the process developed by the United Methodist Church and work within the Church’s broad parameters as they advocate for change.
“The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline can only be amended at a General Conference when delegates from all over the world convene to discern God’s will and pass new legislation. The next General Conference is May 5-15, 2020, and the issue of same sex marriage within the Church will be one of the issues that the General Conference will consider.”