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Reverend could lose his church after officiating same sex weddings

Andy Oliver says he's standing up for what's right
Posted at 4:11 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 19:37:26-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Petersburg Reverend is standing up for what he believes in, despite knowing it could cost him his career.

Reverend Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church says he believes God's love is for everyone, despite sexual orientation.

"I just don't believe same sex love is sinful," Oliver explained.

RELATED: United Methodist pastor apologizes to his community following vote to ban same-sex marriages

Earlier this year, the international United Methodist Church Conference ruled against churches performing same-sex marriages and against allowing openly gay members to be ministers. The ruling said in part: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

Oliver says his congregation made the decision to continue following their beliefs.

"We want to be a church where LGBTQ people will be loved, welcomed and affirmed and that includes our wedding alter," Oliver explained.

On March 16, Oliver performed the wedding ceremony of an interracial lesbian couple.

Ten days later, he found out Reverend Brent Byerman of Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church in Tampa wrote a formal complaint against Oliver. The complaint was filed with the bishop of the United Methodist's Florida Conference.

In just 19 days, on May 29 at 3 p.m. in Lakeland, Oliver and Byerman and others will meet alongside Bishop Ken Carter.

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Oliver is hopeful the complaint will be resolved or dropped, but he could be at risk of losing his Methodist minister certification

As a last resort, the complaint could be brought up in a church trial.

Oliver says he has been performing same-sex wedding ceremonies for three-and-a-half years and he was disheartened by the complaint.

“We were saddened that someone felt the need to try to control the ministries we were offering to our people here,” he said with a sigh. “When a couple comes to me that’s ready for marriage, I need to be their pastor. No matter what. No matter what the rules say.”

Oliver says he is at peace with whatever happens because he knows he is doing what's right in his heart.

"When we get through this and show other churches this is the better way I think more churches will step up to do the same thing," he elaborated.

Oliver says he's hopeful Reverend Bryerman will have a change of heart.

“I once held similar convictions to the complainant at one point in my life and so I believe in transformation,” Oliver explained.

Oliver also says they aren't backing down on same-sex marriages.

“Absolutely not," he said with resolve. "We already have an LGBTQ wedding scheduled for 2020.”

Oliver says his church prides itself on providing "an altar for all" even if that means facing trouble.

ABC Action News reached out to Byerman for comment and was told, "With all due respect, this is a confidential matter within the United Methodist Bishop's Office."