Bishop rules continuation of candidacy for lesbian clergy candidate

Bishop James Dorff picture courtesy of the Council of Bishops. Mary Ann Barclay picture courtesy of the Reconciling Ministries Network

Bishop James Dorff picture courtesy of the Council of Bishops. Mary Ann Barclay picture courtesy of the Reconciling Ministries Network

San Antonio, Texas — Bishop James E. Dorff issued a ruling today continuing the candidacy for ordination process for Mary Ann Kaiser Barclay in opposition to the desires of the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference.

Barclay was recommended as a candidate for ministry by the Austin District Committee on Ministry to the Southwest Texas Annual Conference session in June of this year, however prior to her presentation as a candidate the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) unilaterally removed her name from consideration due to her being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” The decision by the BOM was challenged by the Rev. John Elford, and Bishop Dorff was asked to make a ruling as to whether the BOM followed the proper disciplinary procedure. Bishop Dorff’s ruling today suggests that he believe they did not.

“Paragraph 314 of the 2012 Book of Discipline (BOD) clearly states that the certification or discontinuance of candidacy resides with the District Committee on Ministry,” Dorff wrote. “Prior to recommendation to the Conference Board, there is no mention of any role of the Board of Ordained Ministry in relation to certification.”

Dorff suggested that the District Committee on Ministry followed the correct procedures, but that the BOM did not. He wrote: “Each body, in this case the District Committee and the Board of Ordained Ministry, must follow the procedures as it gathers information upon which to make those judgments.   In this case, the District Committee followed the process for candidacy and rendered a judgment.   The Board of Ordained Ministry rendered a judgment but did not follow the process.   Therefore, the candidate is entitled to full examination by the Board.”

Dorff’s ruling comes after an earlier ruling this summer in which he suggested that the procedural question raised at the Southwest Texas Annual Conference session did not pertain to the business of the annual conference, but rather was concerned about the procedures of the Board of Ordained Ministry over which he had no authority. In a ruling this fall, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church disagreed and ordered Dorff to make a ruling. “The question did not relate to any action before the Clergy Session and instead asked a hypothetical question about the actions of a Board of Ordained Ministry,” Dorff wrote today. “Nevertheless, because I believe the request does present an important question and I now have the approval of the Judicial Council to respond, the ruling is hereby provided.”

In a statement posted at the Reconciling Ministries Network website, Barclay responded that thought the bishop’s decision was important in ensuring that all candidates are given the opportunity to follow the proper procedures which require a formal examination and conversation by the BOM.

“I look forward to now having the opportunity to meet personally with the Board of Ordained Ministry,” she wrote. “I find hope in the fact that this wrong is being corrected and I am eager to continue on this relational, Spirit driven process with the Board. I rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit to illuminate my understanding of faith, my call, and my place in The United Methodist Church.”

More more on this story, we recommend Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges’ story at

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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We’re all against legalism: until we see benefit to our side of the issue. Of all the sadnesses these past couple of years, Rule By Judicial Council tops my list. The bishop got it right the first time: if not the letter of the law, then certainly the spirit. But in dueling legalisms, I suppose there’s little place for “spirit” in much of any form.

Vini Scott

I love my friends who struggle with same-sex attraction, and they are many, but sccripture does not change. “Tolerance” has become the new ~wind of doctrine~ in a culture that is morally bankrupt. (2 Timothy Chapter 3)

Tom Griffith

Technically, according to the Book of Discipline, Bishop Dorff is absolutely correct: the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry has no jurisdiction until a candidate applies for Probationary Membership in the Annual Conference.

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