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Jul 10, 7:24 PM EDT

Gay wedding complaint filed vs. Methodist pastors

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A complaint has been filed against 36 United Methodist ministers who blessed a same-sex wedding in defiance of church law.

The pastors blessed the Nov. 9 ceremony at Philadelphia's Arch Street United Methodist Church to show support for a colleague who faced church discipline for presiding over his gay son's wedding. The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked following a church trial, but his ordination was reinstated by an appeals panel last month.

Bishop Peggy Johnson of the church's eastern Pennsylvania conference said in a statement that she is following the church's disciplinary process.

"We are ... prayerful that a just resolution can be achieved. As United Methodists we are committed to seeking peace and reconciliation as a model for society. May it be so," Johnson said.

About 50 church members from the Philadelphia area, most of them clergy, were behind the complaint, said John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist Action Program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative think tank. He said he had discussions with some of them as they planned it, but he was not directly involved.

"It's been all these months, and there's been no sort of strong response by Bishop Johnson," Lomperis said. "The people involved wanted to give Bishop Johnson every chance to be a leader. It was only after there had been every chance for her to respond that the complaints were filed."

Johnson's assistant said Thursday she would have no comment beyond her statement. Officials at Arch Street United Methodist also declined comment.

The United Methodist Church, the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination with 12 million members worldwide, accepts gay members but bans "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from becoming clergy and forbid ministers from performing same-sex marriages. The issue has caused a split within the church.

The clergy taking part in last year's wedding at Arch Street jointly blessed the union of two men, intoning, "Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder."

The wedding was ceremonial because Pennsylvania's gay-marriage ban was still on the books at the time. A federal judge overturned the ban in May.

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