Gay Couple Files Complaint Against Denomination with Pastor’s Approval

by Daniel James Devine  |  published on November 18, 2014

Two homosexuals who attend a United Methodist Church (UMC) in Winston-Salem, N.C., have lodged a complaint with Methodist officials against their pastor for not marrying them. Although same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina last month, the UMC, like most Christian denominations, does not permit clergy to perform same-sex weddings or ceremonies.

Green Street United Methodist Church announced the complaint against its senior pastor, Kelly Carpenter, during a press conference Nov. 12. The couple, Kenny Barner and Scott Chappell, say that by refusing to marry them, Carpenter is violating the UMC Book of Discipline’s requirement for pastors to “perform the work of the ministry” and refrain from “gender discrimination.”

The couple’s Oct. 30 complaint stated they had been “victimized by Reverend Carpenter’s adherence to United Methodist Church rules,” and that the denial of a church-ordained marriage had caused “great spiritual harm to us both.”

The move appears to be a coordinated effort by the couple and the pastor to challenge UMC rules. Barner and Chappell are active members of Green Street Church, and Chappell is listed on the church’s website as executive director of one of the church’s social service ministries. Barner is chair of the church’s leadership council, according to United Methodist News Service. The church openly advertises its inclusion of “LGBTQ” members and has, since 2009, been part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a group of activist UMC churches seeking to change church policy toward marriage and ordination of gays.