The Reverend Philip Wogaman, ordained in the United Methodist Church for 60 years, retired in 2002 at the end of 10 years pastoring Foundry UMC in D.C., has just surrendered his credentials, “citing continued United Methodist injustice against LGBTQI+ persons.” In the press release, published by Foundry on its website and also by Reconciling Ministries Network, Wogaman
said he made his decision after Foundry member T.C. Morrow’s candidacy was delayed by the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry during the clergy session. Morrow is a married lesbian. Her candidacy had previously been approved by the 2016 clergy session.
“This case in the Baltimore-Washington Conference has brought home how a gifted person of high Christian character can be excluded from ordained ministry because of bad church law, applied legalistically and hurtfully. This person, and many like her, have been excluded from the company of ordained clergy. I had to ask myself, how can I continue to be a part of that company when such people are excluded,” Wogaman said.
He made his announcement during a moment of personal privilege that he requested from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling during the clergy’s executive session at the start of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.
Wogaman was pastor to Bill and Hillary Clinton during Mr. Clinton’s presidency. From a 2016 CNN story:
In Washington, the Clintons found a new church home on a snowy Sunday in January 1993. The family was feeling “stir crazy,” Clinton recalls, so they trudged several blocks through the blizzard to Foundry United Methodist Church, where they surprised a pastor who had almost canceled services that morning.
The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, Foundry’s former pastor, recalls the Clintons attending his church regularly for the next eight years, some 100 or so Sunday services in all. They sat three rows back on the right center aisle, he said, directly in his line of sight from the pulpit.
Wogaman, a dignified man and Methodist scholar, said he tried not to preach politics overtly, though he thought carefully about the messages his sermons would send to the first family. He recalls only one overt political statement he made from the pulpit, asking Bill Clinton to carry the congregation’s good wishes to the family of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Wogaman encourages LGBTQI+ persons not to leave the church, but to continue to serve in ministry:
“Change in the UMC will occur more quickly if increasing numbers of such persons keep knocking at the door. It will be seen increasingly that many such persons are genuinely Christian and that the theological rationale underlying the prohibition is seriously flawed,” he said.
Wogaman said that he urged other clergy concerned about the exclusion of LGBTQI+ persons from ordained ministry to not follow his example. They are needed to remain within the circle to affect change.
Since retiring in 2002, Wogaman’s clergy status had related to Foundry.
Wogaman is a widely renowned United Methodist ethicist. He served as professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. from 1966-1992. Wesley Theological Seminary honored him by naming him Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics. He also served as professor of Bible and Social Ethics at the University of the Pacific from 1961-1966. He is a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics of the United States and Canada, and the American Theological Society.
A four-time delegate to the United Methodist General Conference, Wogaman helped to establish and served as a member of the denomination’s 1988-1992 Special Committee to Study Homosexuality. It was after that service that he became a strong advocate for full LGBTQI+ inclusion in all aspects of church ministry.
Photo from an alumni Q&A with Wogaman on the Boston University website.