Pastor suspended 90 days for marrying same-sex couple in North Carolina

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) — A Tennessee pastor who helped a same-sex couple marry is being punished for what she did.

Rev. Pam Hawkins, the associate pastor of Belmont United Methodist Church, has been suspended without pay for 90 days for performing a same-sex marriage in the spring.

Hawkins did not find out until last week what her punishment would be.

Doug Hagler and his husband have been living as a couple for the past 15 years. In March, they decided to go to North Carolina to get married.

“I joked around that there should not be a 15-year engagement,” Hagler said. “That should only be reserved for royalty or something.”

Nine months ago, Hawkins, their longtime pastor and friend, offered to perform the ceremony.

“Way back in the fall, Pam had reminded me in an email that she didn’t know where and she didn’t know when, but if and when we needed her, she would be there for us,” Hagler said.

In the wake of that decision, Hawkins found herself the subject of a complaint by a member of the church’s governing board.

After four months of proceedings, Hawkins agreed last Friday to accept a 90-day suspension without pay. She said she is still coming to terms with the punishment.

“Taking bread off of the table of an ordained pastor as a way of accountability in the church, that really struck me as worth grief,” Hawkins said. “So it’s hard for me.”

But Hawkins said she has no regrets about the decision that led to the punishment.

“Saying yes to God and the ministry of the gospel was the clear yes for me,” Hawkins said. “And that was where I was led, in spite of the consequences for me within this denomination.”

Bishop William McAlilly is responsible for overseeing more than 1,000 Methodist churches in the state of Tennessee. He said situations like this are never easy.

“The church is a family, and in all families, there are all different ways of interpreting life,” McAlilly said.

But McAlilly said the principles of the denomination must be upheld.

“At the end of the day, we feel like this resolution, while it is not perfect, it does offer some measure of accountability,” McAlilly said. “It does offer some measure of healing.”

Hawkins will retain her benefits during the suspension and her job will be restored at the end of the 90-day suspension.

A spokesperson for Belmont United Methodist Church said they support Hawkins in every way.

A Supreme Court decision last month made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

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