GLENDALE, Ariz. – A resolution supporting same-sex marriage and pledging support for clergy who perform marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples was approved by the Desert Southwest Annual Conference earlier today. The resolution, presented by a group called the “Welcoming and Reconciling Committee” resolved that the annual conference “make a public statement upholding marriage equality,” as well as supporting clergy who perform same-sex weddings, including those brought up on charges for their actions with spiritual, emotional, and prayerful support.
Currently the United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits clergy from conducting ceremonies “that celebrate homosexual unions” (¶341.6), and lists performing such services as one of the chargeable offenses for removal of clergy status (¶2702.1).
An earlier version of the resolution included a provision which would have gone farther in supporting clergy who chose to perform same-sex services. This provision specified that any person filing charges against a clergyperson for conducting same-sex weddings would likewise have charges filed against them for “…behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor” and harassment, both chargeable offenses under the provisions of ¶2702. This provision of the original resolution was removed from the final legislation, which was then approved by the annual conference.
According to the minutes of the annual conference, the Rev. Duane Combs, Sr. Pastor of the Christ Community United Methodist Church in Avondale, AZ requested a ruling of law from Bishop Robert Hoshibata regarding the legality of the marriage equality resolution, asking if the resolution complies with “the requirements of our covenant, the Book of Discipline, and the decisions of our Judicial Council.” Specifically Combs wanted to know how this resolution complies with Judicial Council decision 1220 which states that the decision by an annual conference to “renounce a legislative act of the General Conference is not legal.” This decision was made in regards to an attempt by the California-Pacific Annual Conference to renounce the provision in the Book of Discipline which states that “homosexuality in incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Bishop Hoshibata has 30 days to make a ruling on the legality of the resolution.