A California pastor affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene may be removed from his position due to an essay he wrote supporting same-sex marriage.
While the Nazarene denomination holds a traditional stance on marriage and sexuality, Rev. Dee Kelley, senior pastor at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, wrote an essay in February titled “A Hope for Change.” The essay appears among 90 submissions in a publication titled, “Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming.” Kelley states his support of same-sex marriage in the essay and his desire to marry and bless same-sex couples.
“One of my primary reasons for writing this brief essay is to encourage further dialogue among the clergy concerning LGBTQIA+ issues,” he said in the essay. “I believe that our viewpoints are spread across the spectrum. I fear that we are headed for a crisis confrontation just like other denominations before us.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, regional Nazarene leadership informed Kelley on Aug. 14 that a judiciary process found he was in violation of denominational clergy standards because of his essay. This made him no longer eligible to serve as the pastor of First Church.
Typically when a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene is “accused of conduct unbecoming a minister or of teaching doctrines out of harmony with the doctrinal statement of the Church of the Nazarene,” the concerns are taken to the regional district superintendent who presents it to the District Advisory Board, according to the denomination’s 2017-2021 manual.
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After the board investigates the facts, they can administer discipline for the offense, such as repentance, confession, restitution, suspension or expulsion from the ministry.
The accused is then entitled to appeal the decision within 30 days to the Regional Court of Appeals, provided the accused has suspended ministry activity. Kelley plans to make an appeal, according to the Christian Post.
The Roys Report (TRR) reached out to the Southern California District of the Church of the Nazarene and District Superintendent Thomas Taylor for comment. No response was received by press time.
Kelley has served as senior pastor at his church since 2006. Prior to this, he served on the administrative cabinets at three Nazarene universities.
“I am passionate about God’s love,” Kelley shared on the church’s website. “I serve at a church that is unlike any place I have been in regard to affirmation, support and receptivity.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Kelley said he has received much support from his congregation regarding his position on LGBTQ issues.
“The church has a beautiful diversity of viewpoints, and they exhibit the important trait of maintaining unity in the midst of diverse viewpoints. They have been incredibly kind, supportive, and encouraging to me throughout this process,” he said.
TRR contacted First Church board member, Dr. Dean Nelson, for further comment but did not hear back prior to publication.
The Church of the Nazarene denomination holds that “the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy is contrary to God’s will for human sexuality,” according to the 2017-2021 manual.
“While a person’s homosexual or bi-sexual attraction may have complex and differing origins, and the implication of this call to sexual purity is costly, we believe the grace of God is sufficient for such a calling,” the manual continues.
This section also states that the denomination believes Christians should refrain from unmarried sexual intercourse, adultery, polygamy, pornography, and sexual violence.
The Church of the Nazarene first found its “spiritual vision” based on John Wesley’s preaching in the early 19th century, according to its website. The faith community strives to “take the good news of life in Jesus Christ to people everywhere.”
Today, the denomination states it has 2.5 million members worshipping in more than 30,000 congregations worldwide.
The Church of the Nazarene is just one of several denominations that have struggled with disagreements over same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
Discord over homosexuality in the Methodist Church has caused more than 5,550 churches to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The dissolutions stem from the denomination’s decision to uphold bans on blessing same-sex marriages and on the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy in 2019.
Other denominations, including the Reformed Church in America and the Anglican Church have experienced similar issues in the past few years. Across the United States, support for homosexuality is increasing. A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that 72% of people said that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 49% in 2007. However, the results were very different in less developed countries, like India and Kenya, where support was at 37% and 14% respectively.
Freelance journalist Liz Lykins writes for WORLD Magazine, Christianity Today, Ministry Watch, and other publications.