Tampa Bay Methodist Pastor Could be Stripped of Credentials After Violating Church Rules and Officiating Same-sex Marriage

The Rev. Andy Oliver, Allendale United Methodist Church

The Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church has made no secret of the fact that he is willing to perform same-sex marriages.

In February, when his denomination voted against a proposal to let regional church bodies decide whether to ordain gay and lesbian people in relationships, allow clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages and hold such ceremonies in a church, his congregation took out a full-page newspaper ad to apologize for the decision.

His church website announces that it provides “an altar for all” and is committed “to support and celebrate same-sex marriages.”

Now Oliver may be in trouble for that stance.

On March 16, wearing a rainbow-colored stole, the 39-year-old pastor officiated at the wedding of two women, both members of his church, at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

Ten days later, the Rev. Brent Byerman, of Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church in Tampa, lodged a formal complaint against Oliver with the bishop of the denomination’s Florida Conference. A meeting to resolve the matter is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 29 with Bishop Ken Carter at his Lakeland office.

Violations of the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline can lead to the stripping of a pastor’s credentials.

Oliver said he and his congregation are “saddened that a pastor who is not even a part of our community felt the need to try to control the ministries” being offered to LGBTQ people.

“I don’t think of myself as a victim in this. The real victims are LGBTQ persons who are having their lives and their faith legislated,’’ he said. “This complaint system seeks to create a culture of fear that would try to prevent clergy from doing the same thing that we did, opening up their marriage altar to all people that are ready for marriage.”

About six people, including Byerman, will be permitted to attend the May 29 meeting, Oliver said. One of the brides from the March ceremony will accompany him.

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SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times, Waveney Ann Moore