SEATTLE (AP) -- A complaint has been filed against the openly gay pastor of Woodland Park United Methodist Church, the first step toward his possible removal.
The complaint, announced Dec. 18, was made by Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle at the direction of a high court of the church.
The Rev. Mark Edward Williams disclosed his sexual orientation at the denomination's Pacific Northwest Annual Conference in June. The United Methodist Church bars the appointment of openly gay clergy, but Williams' parishioners have fought to keep him.
The United Methodist Judicial Council affirmed in October that the denomination's Book of Discipline forbids the appointment of homosexual pastors but added that due-process rules must be followed before Williams could be disciplined or removed.
The council directed Galvan to file a complaint to begin the process.
''I was expecting it for many months, but at the same time it sort of felt like being hit in the stomach when it actually happened,'' Williams said.
The bishop and an investigation committee will determine whether there are grounds for a church trial in which a jury could impose penalties ranging from suspension to expulsion from the church.
Galvan also filed a complaint against the Rev. Karen Dammann, an openly lesbian Methodist minister who previously served at Woodland Park and is now on family leave.
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