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Minn. Methodists Investigate Same-Sex Blessings

Thursday Aug 4, 2011

Leaders of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota are investigating whether a Minneapolis pastor violated church policy when he blessed same-sex unions as part of gay pride festivities in the Twin Cities.

The Rev. Greg Renstrom of New Harmony Methodist Church admitted bestowing blessings on six same-sex couples on June 25 at events in Minneapolis and Blaine. Renstrom said none took place on Methodist Church property but he realized he might run afoul of denominational rules.

"I deeply believe that what a number of us are doing is expressing the love of Jesus the best way we can," Renstrom said. "How can that ever be wrong? Sharing the love of Jesus is an important experience. Offering a word of blessing is an extremely important pastoral responsibility."

Renstrom gave advance warning of his plans to Bishop Sally Dyck of the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. On Monday, she announced the complaint, which could take up to 45 days to investigate, after which she will either initiate supervisory action or dismiss the complaint.

A conference spokeswoman said Renstrom will continue to officiate at New Harmony Methodist Church during the investigation.

Like many Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church has been struggling with how to respond to growing recognition of gay relationships. In June, a United Methodist pastor in Wisconsin was suspended for 20 days after being convicted in a church trial of officiating at a same-sex union.

The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline states that "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

But some Methodist clergy in Minnesota and elsewhere are challenging that. In Minnesota, 70 Methodist pastors recently signed a statement pledging to offer the church's blessing to "any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage" regardless of sexual orientation. Methodist clergy in a number of states have signed similar documents.

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