Upper NY bishop issues statement on complaint

Bishop Mark J. Webb

Bishop Mark J. Webb

Bishop Mark J. Webb of the Upper New York Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church has issued the following statement on a complaint brought against the Rev. Stephen Heiss regarding his performing same-sex marriages:

After 120 days of a supervisory response, which included a 30-day extension, to seek a just resolution of the complaint filed against Rev. Heiss, Bishop Mark J. Webb announced that a just resolution has not been achieved, and the matter will be referred to Counsel for the Church as a complaint. It will be the responsibility of the Counsel for the Church to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support a chargeable offense and forward such evidence toward a trial process. If it is determined there is not sufficient evidence to support a chargeable offense, the Counsel for the Church may make a recommendation to the bishop that the matter be dismissed.

“After much discussion and prayerful discernment, I am sorry to announce that we have been unable to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to this matter,” said Bishop Webb.

Rev. Stephen Heiss

Rev. Steven Heiss

“We know all United Methodists are not in agreement about same-sex marriage. However, there must be universal agreement that the covenant between the Church and its clergy is sacred and must be upheld by both,” the bishop said. “Clergy take their oath freely and with the knowledge they must fulfill the promises they make. By the same covenant, the Annual Conference and I, as a bishop, must fulfill the obligation to fully and fairly administer Church law.

“The 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church expresses it this way: ‘Ordained persons exercise their ministry in covenant with all Christians, especially with those whom they lead and serve in ministry. They also live in covenant of mutual care and accountability with all those who share their ordination, especially in The United Methodist Church … The covenant of ordained ministry is a lifetime commitment, and those who enter into it dedicate their whole lives to the personal and spiritual disciplines it requires.'”

As a worldwide denomination, The United Methodist Church is a connectional church. The system that connects individuals in ministry also allows United Methodists to make decisions together through dialogue and prayerful discernment.

“Our process for determining Church law involves the prayerful discernment of hundreds of delegates who gather every four years as representatives of the 12 million United Methodists around the world. Only at this gathering, which we call General Conference, can the Church’s stance on any issue, Church law, be changed. The Book of Discipline codifies Church law; it is updated following each General Conference. The next General Conference of The United Methodist Church will be in 2016 in Portland, Ore.

“Our denomination relies on the integrity of this ‘order’ we have chosen,” said Bishop Webb. “Throughout our history as a denomination, we have faced issues on which we disagree, but by working through our defined processes and respecting one another, we have prayerfully discussed and discerned the Church’s path together.

The law prohibiting United Methodist clergy from performing same-sex unions is a law of the Church by virtue of its adoption by the General Conference, and only General Conference can alter or void this or any other Church law.

“As United Methodists, we uphold that process as much as we uphold the current result of that process, our 2012 Book of Discipline,” Bishop Webb said. “If we disregard that order, we put the integrity of our covenant together in jeopardy.”

“I urge all of us to continue in a spirit of prayer for Rev. Heiss and all involved in this difficult and painful matter,” said the Bishop. “May we continue to live with one another in a manner worthy of being sisters and brothers in Christ. May we continue to seek God’s wisdom, direction and vision as we strive to live our mission to ‘make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’ and be a witness of light to the world around us.”

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at editor@circuitwritermedia.com

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11 Comments on "Upper NY bishop issues statement on complaint"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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John Battern
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"If it is determined there is not sufficient evidence to support a chargeable offense, the Counsel for the Church may make a recommendation to the bishop that the matter be dismissed."

My bet is the Counsel for the Church will find there isn't sufficient evidence to support a chargeable offense, though there's seems to be no real question about whether or not Rev. Heiss conducted the wedding. Utter disregard for our Discipline and Order is running wild in the UMC and I doubt the Counsel will do anything to stop it.

Stewart Lanier
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I urge you to practice "ecclesiastical disobedience" in response to a chuech law that is inconsistent with the gospel; to do this in a manner similar to what civil rights and justice proponents do in civil society–they do not abandon their country but refuse to abide by laws that are determined by reason and experience to be unjust and inconsistent with more fundamental laws and principles. Many UM clergy have signed statements committing to doing this. It's time for bishops to do likewise.

rbtaustin
Guest

Seems like everyone is concerned about God's Church doing their bidding… and not really too concerned with what God said on the matter.

Pastor Stephen Burkh
Guest

Spiritual and Administrative impotence.

former_UMC_member
Guest

Did the dude marry a homosexual couple or didn't he? Does the Book of Discipline forbid this or doesn't it? The statement above by Bishop Webb is ten paragraphs of irrelevant nonsense, and a typical diversion, typical of spineless ecclesiastical UMC governance.

Joseph E. Lair, Sr.
Guest
AMEN!!!!!The only "moral law" that supercedes the BOD and the individual feelings is found in the Word of God. The Scripture is NOT to be reinterpreted to fit the moral standards of the society in which we live or the changing times. God's law, "standard of morallity", does not change with the ebb and flow of "man's opinions". His Holy order of living is forev er setteled in glory…not to be "added to or taken away from". Instead of the Church taking the Gospel "outside of the church" the Church has brought all kinds of wickedness of the world into… Read more »
Jay
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"As Methodists, we uphold the process as much as we uphold the practice of slavery," the Bishop said in 1859, "If we disregard that order, we put the integrity of our covenant together in jeopardy.”

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Dean nyder
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The law prohibiting United Methodist clergy from performing same-sex unions is a law of the Church by virtue of its adoption by the General Conference, and only General Conference can alter or void this or any other Church law."

Actually, this is not quite factually true as we discovered at the last GC. The Judicial Council can declare a GC law to be unconstitutional and, thus, null and void. Not so?

revdrsusant
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Church law–rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Did not Jesus fulfill all the laws once and for all? In Christ there is no male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or master…we hear from Paul. Fear and only fear will perpetuate injustice.

Aaron
Guest

Jesus came to fulfill the law not to abolish it. Matthew 5:17

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