Tennessee pastor fired for officiating same-sex wedding

Chattanooga pastor fired for officiating same-sex wedding - WTVC.png
Anna Golladay was an assistant pastor at First Methodist Church in St. Elmo and St. Marks in Chattanooga, but last week the United Methodist Denomination of Scenic City revoked her license. (Images: WTVC)

Anna Golladay was an associate pastor at First Methodist Church in St. Elmo and St. Marks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but last week the superintendent of the 'Scenic South District of the Holston Conference of The United Methodist Church' revoked her license.

Anna Golladay says she was raised loving the Lord, "I and my family have known nothing other than the United Methodist Denomination."

She says she even helped revitalize St. Marks Church in Chattanooga - a movement which helped the church become openly welcome to the LGBTQ community.

"We started the revitalization process with an assumption of inclusion for GLBT folk and have not strayed from that and we knew that inclusion was going to very much be a part of our story," Golladay says.

Last fall, Golladay conducted a same sex wedding for a couple she'd guided for years. She says she knew that clergy in the Methodist church were not allowed to marry same-sex couples so she gave the decision to officiate the wedding a lot of thought.

She tells NewsChannel9, "If I am going to step out in faith knowing that I am potentially crossing a line based on the rules of a man-made book, I wanted to be intentional about that. I wanted to be sure that it was exactly what God intended me to do."

She said that her commitment to be their pastor meant that she should be with them through this day.

Golladay says, "I find it sad that the Church asks of me to be their pastor in always at all times, except for one day out of one year in their entire life. There's something fundamentally wrong about that."

That decision cost her a pastoral license. Golladay is not an ordained minister, and as such was not given the same termination process as one. Superintendent Randy Martin of the Scenic South District revoked her license last week, and the decision was announced Sunday at both St. Marks and the First Methodist Church in St. Elmo.

Golladay says she knew the Book of Discipline prohibits clergy from marrying same sex couples. But she did it anyway.

The leader of one of Chattanooga's largest Methodist churches says he believes the right decision was made. Pastor Doug Fairbanks says it all comes down to authority.

He and Golladay agreed to abide by the Methodist Church rules when they became leaders. She broke the rules.

"When this pastor received permission and authority to serve a church and preach the gospel understood where the church stood at this time.. so it was a personal choice," Fairbanks said.

On Tuesday, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) published a press release on Golladay's termination, as well as a blog post written by Anna Golladay going into further details in the situation. RMN is an organization made of primarily United Methodist individuals which "equips and mobilizes United Methodists to resist evil, injustice, and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities."

Although there are some people who disagree with the Pastor's decision. Judy Iserman is one of them.

Judy Iserman is not a Methodist, but she is a Christian who does not condone homosexuality.

"I don't think it's biblical," she said.

Iserman says the meaning of the Bible does not change over time.

"No, because that's a flat out - it says that's a sin," she said.

She hopes standing up for her beliefs is not construed as judging people.

"We're all sinners saved by grace and you just have to try to love the sinner and hate the sin," Iserman said.

Some members of Golladay's church, however, stand with her.

Barry Condra is one of the members of First Methodist Church in St. Elmo and he says he recognizes the Methodist rule, but says it was a mistake to let Golladay go.

"We do understand that it was in the book of discipline but the book needs to be changed," Condra says.