Methodist Pastor Suspended

A United Methodist pastor in Illinois has been suspended from the church for blessing a same-sex marriage in Chicago.

The Reverend Gregory Dell was found guilty of disobeying church laws, which ban same-sex marriages.

Now church leaders must decide what to do about a divide that some say only grew deeper after the guilty verdict.

Dell attended Duke University's Divinity School with the Reverend Jimmy Creech. Creech is on voluntary leave from the church after a 1998 trial in Nebraska resulted in a ruling by church officials to advise against blessing same-sex unions.

Dell's suspension goes into effect July 5th. It puts his 30-year career as a Methodist minister on hold. Church officials say they'll lift the ban if Dell signs a statement promising to obey the ban.

But Dell says he won't abandon the gay and lesbian community, nor any other group that society decides to marginalize out of fear or ignorance.

A lay member from a Methodist church says those against the ban should try to change it at the United Methodist conference in 2000.