Judicial Council to continue deliberations on sexuality issues in April

Judicial Council

The Judicial Council for the 2012-16 Quadrennium pose for a group photo during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. Seated, from left: Belton Joyner, J. Kabamba Kiboko, N. Oswald Tweh Sr., and Kathi Austin Mahle. Standing from left: Ruben T. Reyes, Dennis Blackwell, Beth Capen, William B. Lawrence and Angela Brown.
A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry

Editor’s note: We mistakenly identified one of the actions as coming from the Southwest Texas Annual Conference when in fact it came from the Desert Southwest. We have updated our story to fix this mistake.

The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC), the top judicial body of the UMC, will again review several cases related to homosexuality and same-sex marriage issues in their April 23-25 meeting, according to the docket released by the Council yesterday.

One of the cases will be familiar to the members of the Council, as they offered a ruling on different aspects of the case in their previous session. The case involves a decision by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) to remove Mary Ann Kaiser Barclay from the candidacy process for being a self-avowed practicing homosexual even though she had been recommended by the Austin District Committee on Ministry. When that decision was questioned from the floor of the annual conference, Bishop Dorff was asked to make a ruling on the legality of that decision. Dorff’s original ruling that the question was moot in that it didn’t deal with active issues before the annual conference was overturned by the Judicial Council at their October 2013 session, and Dorff was told to make a ruling on whether the BOM had the authority to make such a decision without first investigating and interviewing Barclay. Dorff ruled this past December that the BOM had indeed acted inappropriately and that Barclay’s candidacy should be reinstated until she received a full examination by the BOM. The Judicial Council will be reviewing this latter ruling by Bishop Dorff.

In a case involving the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, the Council will be reviewing Bishop Robert Hoshibata’s decision to allow a resolution on marriage equality to proceed to the members of the conference for a vote. The Marriage Equality resolution called on the annual conference to support marriage quality and to offer support to clergy who performed same-sex wedding ceremonies (which is prohibited in the UM Book of Discipline). Hoshibata ruled that the resolution doesn’t not “legally negate, ignore, or violate the Discipline” and thus the resolution was in order. Hoshibata drew on Judicial Council Decision 1220 as support for his decision.

A third case related to same-sex marriage originating from the General Council on Finance and Administration will be reviewed that the Council’s April session. This case involves spousal benefits for same-sex couples under the General Agencies Welfare Benefits Program (GAWBP). After the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and the increasing number of states legalizing same-sex marriage, GCFA made the decision this past October to allow same-gender spouses to be enrolled in the program according to the laws of the state where the agency is located. GCFA has asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council as to whether this decision conflicts with ¶806.9 of the 2012 Book of Discipline which states that church funds may not be used to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”

Two other items relate to the rules for the election of bishops in the Philippines, and a conflict between the New Jersey Annual Conference and A Future With Hope, Inc.

The April meeting will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Click here to download a copy of the docket.

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and a managing partner of CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay will become the Sr. Pastor of the City Road Chapel UMC in East Nashville in July. Jay has also written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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Join the conversation....

  1. Imagine, if you will, the UMC without this sexuality issue, zero — not there in any way. Then, what issue(s) would the church be dealing with? In other words, are there things in the church that need addressing but cannot be because this sexuality issue dominates much of the time, energy, and resources of the church?

    • Wes Andrews says:

      Yes, the UMC’s mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been derailed by people who get paid by faithful United Methodists’ tithes, but don’t support the beliefs of the UMC. Insanity.

      • Good point. We pay a number of people to openly defy the church. It does, indeed, look insane. Are there other organizations that allow its employees to openly defy its policies like this? To top it off, those in defiance continually accuse the church of discriminating againt them for not giving them what they want. And to top that off, the church continues to allow this. There could be a time when many of those underwriting this, primarily through apportionments , will stop tolerating it.

        • I agree that the church needs to be focusing on other issues, and the sooner this debate is settled, the better. But keep in mind that both sides of the argument can make that same point. A significant number Methodists in my area are in favor of marriage equality, and good strong active church members are now openly voicing their thoughts of leaving the Methodist Church altogether. When we should be focusing on growing the church and ministering to our communities, we’re instead choosing to exclude people, and those who care about them are going to leave with them. For many, myself included, this is a log vs. speck issue. The conflict between “judge not” and church doctrine is a bitter pill for many of us to swallow.

          • Excluding people? By following the definition that Jesus himself affirmed as God’s created order of marriage, we’re excluding people who fall outside of that by not allowing our clergy to marry them in our churches? Or, to ignore Biblically defined sexual sins while celebrating with those actively and boastfully engaged in them on an ongoing basis overrides God and His written Word for the sole goal of inclusion makes it ok?

        • Many who support the church and pay in tithes to support the church, disagree with what is viewed as not in concert with our general rules, and the will of our loving God.
          We pay leaders to help us discern what the Holy Spirit wants us to be and to do. That we do not all agree is a strength as we journey together in faith.

          • Bottom line: Is Father/Son/Holy Spirit the same yesterday today forever? OR, is Father/Son/Holy Spirit progressive? How one answers these questions may/should dictate which side of the proverbial fence one comes down on.

Your thoughts?

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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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