Resident Phil Wogaman discusses his new book and the difficult decision to go against The United Methodist church’s decision to refuse ordination to a gay minister
By Bob Merikangas
Riderwood residents have learned much from and about fellow resident Phil Wogaman over the years, from his being active as a minister and teaching classes, such as those on Christianity and politics. This fall people are taking his PGCC SAGE program course, “Religion and Politics: A Troubled Intersection.” Now Phil shares much from his life in his recently published book, Surrendering My Ordination: Standing Up for Gay and Lesbian Inclusivity in The United Methodist Church (Westminster John Knox Press, 2018).
In the book, he tells of the reasons for his decision in 2017 and how they were related to a decision of the Board of Ordained Ministry in the church not to present T. C. Morrow for approval for ordination. He writes, “There was but one reason for this: Ms. Morrow was in a same-gender marriage. In all respects, she amply fulfilled all requirements and expectations… When I learned of the board’s decision not to present her, I was deeply troubled. Gradually the question came to me, ‘How could I remain in the clergy circle when such a fine person was excluded? Denied progress toward ordination for that one reason alone? What should I do about it?’” (p. 57).
He made a statement that included these words: “However, my heart breaks for T. C. Morrow and for others like her with gifts and graces for ordained ministry who have been excluded as a result of bad church law, applied legalistically and hurtfully… I have concluded that even now, in the twilight years of my life and ministry, I must join with T. C. and others outside the clergy circle by surrendering my credentials today. I do this with a heavy heart but knowing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right about there being a cost of discipleship at every stage of our life as Christians.” (p. 58). Phil received many messages of support from other clergy members.
In the front of the book are words of praise from many people, and all should be given attention, but some words of particular significance are from Chelsea Clinton: “For twenty-five years I have admired Dr. Wogaman for his compassion, his kindness, and his deep intelligence… Now, after reading Surrendering My Ordination, I admire him more than ever and see his continued ministry through this beautifully written book. As a Christian and a Methodist, I am grateful for Dr. Wogaman’s detailing his views on the meaning of ordination. As a person, I am grateful for his generous honesty in sharing his own spiritual journey over decades to seeing people for their actions and their faith, not for their gender or whom they love.”
Residents may want to use Phil’s book to inspire conversations and discussions about how to deal with issues in a church; not just the issue of same-sex marriage, but also other issues that stir up conflicts. Phil provides a message to those of us who are confronting issues in their church, such as policies, and sex abuse by clergy and clericalism: “The events of this year have given me greater energy and insight into the task of confronting and healing the sin of the church.” (p. 109).