A United Methodist panel has dismissed charges against the Rev. Mark Edward Williams of breaking church law that forbids "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to serve as pastors. The investigation committee of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference determined there was insufficient evidence to bring the case to church trial.
The decision follows last summer's annual conference, where the Woodland Park United Methodist Church pastor read into record that he was "proudly as much a practicing gay man as [he was] a practicing United Methodist."
After the announcement, Williams continued to serve the Seattle church, where he had been appointed since 1999, but under supervision. In December, Bishop Elias Galvan filed formal charges. The subsequent investigation could have led to a Judicial Council trial and possible expulsion.
Maggie Brown, chairwoman of the church's staff-parish relations, said the congregation supported the pastor and celebrated the complaint's dismissal. "This shows that sexual orientation has nothing to do with performance," she told Christianity Today. "This year has led our church through a path of realizing what he has done for us. We all are on different levels of our journey with this issue, but we'll all backing Mark."
During the investigation, Williams refused to answer specific questions regarding his statement or homosexual practice. The committee decided it could not find "reasonable cause" for trial without further evidence of homosexual practice.
"It's been a long year for all of us," Williams said in a sermon shortly after the decision. "But I hope that we take this opportunity to make a fresh start. Perhaps we can make a commitment to treat each other with more compassion and respect than we ever ...1
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