(South Hill, Virginia) A Methodist minister accused of refusing to admit a gay parishioner to his rural church is appealing after church leaders banished him from the ministry for one year.
The Rev. Edward Johnson, former pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church, is scheduled to go before the Judicial Council in Houston in late October, according to a docket.
The council — the church's equivalent of a high court — will have the final say on whether a June 13 decision removing the pastor was valid, said the Rev. W. Anthony Layman, retired district superintendent for Johnson's region in rural Southside Virginia.
Layman said the punishment stemmed from Johnson's actions in December, in which he turned away a homosexual who had been attempting to join South Hill's congregation. Layman said he had confronted Johnson in January about what he considered a violation of denominational guidelines.
"I was trying to show him the church was open to receiving (the member)," Layman said. "He, in turn, relied on his interpretation of the scriptures."
Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Based on Layman's complaint, a denomination board recommended a leave of absence for Johnson. The Virginia Conference, United Methodist Church, approved the punishment by a vote of 418-114 at a June session.
While the United Methodist Church will not ordain practicing homosexuals, gays and lesbians are not explicitly prohibited from becoming congregants, according to the Methodist Book of Discipline.
The Methodist guidebook specifies the church will not refuse membership to anyone based on race, nationality, economic condition or status.
Quotes obtained from 365gay.com