Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Theses & dissertations (Interdisciplinary)


Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Adam Foley

Second Advisor

Susan Stewart


The purpose of this qualitative research study is to understand the relationship between a dissenting clergy member in the United Methodist Church and his/her congregation in relation to same-sex marriage. This study seeks to answer: Why is the United Methodist Church resisting change when American society at large is altering its views on same-sex marriage? What is the experience of a clergy member who diverges from the denomination’s bylaws regarding sexual identity and the performance of same-sex marriage? How does that dissension affect the relationship with a clergy member’s parishioners? What effect does clerical dissension have on a clergy member’s ability to perform his/her job?

This case study offers a snap shot into a Midwestern United Methodist Church community, with a dissenting pastor who sought to use his position as a church authority figure to act as an ally for LGBT individuals. This attempt came with a myriad of educational, generational, and ideological complications.

Data collection occurred over a two-month period and employed descriptive case study methodology, grounded theory, and in-depth interviews. Following data collection, coding identified six overarching themes: (1) dialogue, (2) generational concerns, (3) ideology, (4) denominational concerns, (5) outcomes of dissension, and (6) an uncertain future. Findings from this study describe the current relationship between a dissenting Pastor and his congregation, in addition to providing theoretical frameworks for understanding what dissent looks like in the United Methodist Church and what congregational roadblocks currently prevent social change on the issue of same sex-marriage.


Copyright Owner

Erin E. Meek



File Format


File Size

148 pages