Minnesota Annual Conference calls for bishop to reject trials on GLBT issues

Bishop Bruce Ough

Bishop Bruce Ough

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Minnesota Annual Conference approved a statement on Friday, May 30 asking Bishop Bruce Ough, members of the bishop’s cabinet, and the Board of Ordained ministry to disregard provisions in the “United Methodist Book of Discipline” (BOD) which “…continue to exclude and discriminate against those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), as well as place barriers between them and our clergy persons seeking to minister to all.” The statement was approved by a hand vote at the annual conference session meeting at the River’s Edge Conference Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota which took place on May 28-30, 2014.

“We believe that we are approaching a critical crossroad and a tipping point for full inclusion of all persons in the life and ministry of our church,” the statement says.

The letter was submitted as a piece of legislation by a group that included a lay person, a pastor, and a committee from Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester. The letter was discussed and adopted by the members of the annual conference, an equal amount of clergy and lay persons from every congregation and district, numbering over 700 persons in total.

The letter states that Minnesota United Methodists will “…aspire to model Queen Esther’s courage and exercise Micah’s prophetic leadership and boldness in the following ways”:

  • Declaring their belief that church trials are not appropriate for dealing with issues around GLBTQ and same-sex marriage issues, as well as discouraging United Methodists in Minnesota from filing complaints based on these issues.
  • Welcoming those clergy who have been rejected in other annual conference for their ministries with GLBTQ persons.
  • Witnessing to the entire United Methodist Church concerning the vital spirituality that comes from faithfully living into the Gospel’s call for radical hospitality.

There are currently 67,731 members of about 350 United Methodist churches in Minnesota.

Here is the full text of the letter:

To: Bishop Bruce Ough, Resident Bishop, Minnesota Annual Conference; Bishop’s Cabinet; and The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Minnesota Annual Conference

As lay and clergy of the Minnesota Annual Conference, we share with you our concerns and prayers, and we offer our support to you in these challenging times. We offer this statement of our beliefs and aspirations so that you may consider them as you exercise your responsibilities as leaders of our annual conference.

We believe that we should hold each other accountable to our public declaration that the Minnesota Annual Conference will do ministry unshackled by those rules inscribed in our Book of Discipline that continue to exclude and discriminate against those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), as well as place barriers between them and our clergy persons seeking to minister to all.

We believe that we are approaching a critical crossroad and a tipping point for full inclusion of all persons in the life and ministry of our church. For such a time as this, we in the Minnesota Annual Conference aspire to model Queen Esther’s courage and exercise Micah’s prophetic leadership and boldness in the following ways:

1. We will do justice by declaring unequivocally our belief that church trials are not appropriate for clergy who are LGBTQ, or for clergy who have officiated or blessed the marriage of same-sex couples, or for instances where church buildings may be used for such ceremonies. We hope to see funds invested in ministry and mission rather than trials. We implore our colleagues not to bring such complaints. We implore you leaders responsible for processing such complaints to do all you can to avoid such trials as not in the best interests of successful ministry in Minnesota. We implore any juries which might be seated to consider the big picture and, if convictions are unavoidable, to assess penalties which are minimal and non-financial for the clergy person and pastoral and healing of the wider church body.

2. We will love kindness by welcoming into our conference those who have been turned away for their pastoral work with the LGBTQ community in other conferences. We implore our District Committees on Ordained Ministry and our conference Board of Ordained Ministry to be open to the gifts and graces of such persons to the fullest extent possible still consistent with your primary obligation to cultivate and qualify and recommend outstanding candidates for ministry in Minnesota.

3. We will walk humbly with God by witnessing to the entire United Methodist Church concerning the vital spirituality that comes from faithfully living into the Gospel’s call for radical hospitality. We urge our congregations engage in respectful conversations in which all perspectives are shared and mutually understood. We affirm that even clergy with different views—those who bless same-sex weddings and those who choose not to—do so from genuinely held beliefs equally rooted in their own Biblical understanding, and we respect the call and decisions of both types. We believe that no pastor should be rewarded nor criticized for their own decision to officiate or not to officiate same-sex marriages. We aspire for the Minnesota Annual Conference to model true reconciliation in word and action and hope by doing so it will be a positive and timely witness to the broader UMC.

We commit ourselves, in the spirit of reconciliation, not to abandon anyone who God loves—regardless of where we are on the journey toward loving and accepting all of God’s children. This requires moving beyond mere talk and indeed to concrete witness for love and against injustice despite the risks involved. Only then do we deliver ourselves humbly in the hands of God’s grace alone. We pledge to continue upholding the ministry of being reconciled with humanity and creation that God loves.

We invite you, leaders of our conference, to publicly declare your faithfulness to Jesus’ radical hospitality even where it is incompatible with discriminatory parts of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Please know that, in doing so, we are praying for you and will continue to support you.

UMReporter Staff

This story was created by the staff 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
Send Mail

Facebook Twitter 

Join the conversation....

  1. As one of the lay authors of this, I like to highlight #3 in its entirely. The letter is a statement of values and aspiration. For context, separately in 2010 and 2014 we acted on petitions for general conference to remove all discriminatory language from Book of Discipline; and in 2013 Minnesota’s civil government made same sex marriage legal. So this letter expresses our hopes for how our leaders might respond to our current crisis. #1 (justice) and #2 (kindness and mercy) continues our support for full LGBTQ inclusion. And #3 (walking humbly with God) shows our acceptance for all regardless of their agreement with the majority in Minnesota. In full, #3:

    “3. We will walk humbly with God by witnessing to the entire United Methodist Church concerning the vital spirituality that comes from faithfully living into the Gospel’s call for radical hospitality. We urge our congregations to engage in respectful conversations in which all perspectives are shared and mutually understood. We affirm that even clergy with different views—those who bless same-sex weddings and those who choose not to—do so from genuinely held beliefs equally rooted in their own Biblical understanding, and we respect the call and decisions of both types. We believe that no pastor should be rewarded nor criticized for their own decision to officiate or not to officiate same-sex marriages. We aspire for the Minnesota Annual Conference to model true reconciliation in word and action and hope by doing so it will be a positive and timely witness to the broader UMC.”

    This graceful and specifically non-coercive position was one key to our annual conference session’s overwhelming support for this letter. We pray for inclusion of all, for unity of the church (eschewing schism) and for our leaders in these challenging times.

    • Mr. Nuchols: An interesting statistic would be what percent of the nearly 68,000 members your conference espouses are in a umc on a weekly basis…………….

      • Elaine T says:

        Another interesting statistic will be how many of those who sit in their pews will walk out their doors. There will be an increased membership in the local “Bible” churches, Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Nazarene, Assembly of God or others of that nature.

        • Tom Henning says:

          Yet another interesting statistic is how many young people raised in the UMC will remain a part of the church after age 18, rather than leave as most now do. They are too often alienated from a church that fails to embrace their gay and lesbian friends as wholeheartedly as they do. Also, I wonder how many new families headed by same-sex couples will join due to the welcoming nature of statements like this.

          • When they go to college or otherwise get on their own young people tend to leave the church, at least temporarily, for the same reasons they’ve always done so, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality: 1) find themselves 2) explore liberation, 3) explore ideas, philosophies, etc.

            Hormone-laden, liberally-inspired young people have historically strayed from the sexual restrictions of church teaching…that is, until they get a little older, a little smarter, a little more experienced…then they realize that there are some good reasons for those teachings.

        • I am pleased to see young families join our church who would not be part of a congregation unless it is openly welcoming and affirming GLBT persons, spouses and their children. This is an important consideration for straight / ally couples like us.

    • William says:

      Mr. Nuckols,
      If such a cleverly worded couched in love and compassion petition was presented at your Annual Conference requesting your conference to ignore or circumvent the BOD on prosecuting the practice of consenting adultery, for example, among your clergy, would you have voted in favor of it. With radical liberal interpretation of the Bible now in place in your conference, you are now compelled to give consenting adulterers, for example, equal consideration. In fact, you are now compelled to give equal consideration to any consenting sexual practice petitioned by members of your conference based on the petitioner’s interpretation of Scripture. Now, the definition of consenting adulterers would be married people who have agreed to an open marriage, where both can engage in sexual relations with others outside that marriage. An open, modern, and liberal interpretation of the Bible would require recognition of such a marriage because those in such a marriage have declared it Scripturally acceptable and thus the church must accept that out of love and inclusiveness. In such a marriage, there can be no unfaithfulness thus no adultery according to the adulterers understanding of adultery.

      • No. The standard is chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. Same standard should apply to gay and straight folks alike. I’m not asking for sexual liberalization, but merely equal application of the standard. Let me ask you to pray on a scenario where you had two single adult single children, neither called to celibacy, and each wanting to be faithful Christians. Wouldn’t you want marriage as part of their path to sanctification for your gay child as well as for your straight child?

        • William says:

          Since Jesus defined marriage by affirming God’s created order for marriage as that between a man and a woman in his discourse on divorce (Matthew 19) , then gay folks cannot be conveniently called alike. There is no alike or equal application of the standard by Jesus because there is no other kind of marriage except that of a man and a woman in God’s created order no matter what the state of Minnesota says. It doesn’t matter what I want for my children, that does not change the definition of marriage that Jesus gave. So, heaven forbid, if I’m a follower of Jesus, I must choose him over my child (he said it, not me, and perhaps the most harsh thing he ever said).

          • Elaine T says:

            AMEN! Our culture worships the God of Feelings. Jesus clearly expects our total commitment, Is that a tough call? Yes, but He doesn’t leave us alone in that struggle. When He calls our attention to sin in our lives he doesn’t say,” Oh I don’t want to hurt you feelings.” He says, “Your sin is forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

        • Once you ignore Scriptural admonitions against homosexual sex then there is no rationale for using Scripture to then argue for chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. It is an inescapable consequence of logic.

          It is most interesting that so many liberals suddenly finding new significance for marriage have been telling us for years that marriage is an outdated social institution. (Ergo, it is reasonable to assume that anti-Biblical notions of sexuality are just a means to an end).

  2. William says:

    And the North Georgia folks think a split can be avoided? Wake up my friends, the split, the schism is here and now full blown, just hasn’t been made official yet. Thousands upon thousands, probably millions, are waiting on General Conference 2016.

  3. The question of how to interpret sections of Bible is at the heart the human sexuality issue. Are the few Bible passages referring to homosexuals timeless truths, teachings applicable in ancient Roman context but no longer stands based on our improved medical knowledge, or are these human prejudices that caused countless instances of pain over a two thousand year interval?

    There is a special category of sins for doing evil in the name of God. Indifference is not an excuse. Especially given that so many people’s conscience have cried out, I think we should be very careful to make sure we do no harm. Instead, let’s hear these excluded people’s stories seriously. After all, aren’t they the spiritually poor and the outcast ones?

    • The church has gradually lost its awe (fear if you will) of Father/Son/Holy Spirit. The present church seems to teach that the status quo of the day–what ever that may be–is where Father/Son/Holy Spirit reigns. The present church wants to believe that what feels good is where Father/Son/Holy Spirit is and what He sanctions. The present church conveniently forgets that the Age of Grace will–perhaps has–pass away. The present church FORGETS that some day ALL will stand ALONE before the Judgement Seat of Christ. Present church: Are you WASHED in the Blood of the Lamb?

    • William says:

      This logic, based on “improved medical knowledge”, could then be used to challenge the healing miracles of Jesus, even challenge his Resurrection, as examples. Going down this road has no end when revising the meaning of the Bible, relegating it to the category of just another ancient work up for debate and endless interpretations , thus diminishing or eliminating its authority.

  4. Wes Andrews says:

    It would be interesting to see how all this is impacting the balance sheets of local churches and annual conferences. It’s only a matter of time when the progressives cause the UMC to implode through a mass exodus of members and givers. The exodus is not because any are “afraid” of people who identify themselves as homosexuals. We all have friends who are gay. The exodus would be because progressives reject any kind of commitment to faithfulness in their dealings with others. I don’t know how any clergy or church member in Minnesota would feel that the conference would keep any commitments if it so casually tramples on the commitments and agreements in the book of discipline.

  5. Rev. David Goudie says:

    A very similar petition was passed at the Detroit Annual Conference in May 2014. However, a ruling of law was asked from the Bishop as to whether this violates the Discipline. And this past Sunday she (Bishop Deb Keisey) ruled that the resolution (or I should say 95% of it does indeed violate the discipline and is null and void. http://www.detroitconference.org/news/detail/1180
    I bring it up because 1) for those who are in conferences who have similar resolutions I would suggest asking from a floor a rule of law from the Bishop.
    2) its not simply that these types of resolutions are saying we disagree … they are urging us to look away and ignore the discipline and reject our covenant. As much as this continues, it will continue to foster more schism. (If we cannot live by the covenant of the discipline – what good is it to even have a discipline.) in other words what part of the discipline can I now choose to reject as a clergy member?

    • Rev. Goudie: If you can–pretend in your mind that you are a layperson. Understand that as one who would fit that description you have–for decades–been “told” to sit in the pew with folded hands and send money–and–NEVER question the holy book of discipline. That is the way the umc has operated for a VERY long time.

      • Wes Andrews says:

        If the laity had a stronger voice and were well informed regarding the dominance of the progressives in our institutions, universities, seminaries and general agencies, then they would have STOPPED giving toward apportionments a few decades ago. They would have required real accountability. Currently there is no accountability, and hasn’t been for decades. So basically the progressives, who have been glad that the laity have remained uninformed, have been taking candy from a baby.

        If the laity of UMC were allowed to be informed and allowed to require real accountability, it would remain United, but alas that is not the case.

        • Wes, as usual, you hit the nail on the head.

          A basic problem stems from the grassroots–the laity–not knowing what their support is going for. As we have seen, in some cases it is going for things that are anti-Christian. The biggest friend to the liberal caucus is ignorance and apathy on the part of their (unwitting) benefactors.

          • Wes Andrews says:

            Mark, you are kind. Seriously, traditionalists honor their commitments. Traditionalists keep the faith. They pay attention to transcendent truth. They don’t quit. They don’t cheat. They don’t lie with clever phrases like “reimagine”, etc. We believe in fighting for truth and justice, real justice. There are so many in the world who truly are unjustly treated. And that is where we proclaim and live the GOSPEL. We have even embrace our gay brothers and sisters, yet without compromising the Biblical definitions of sexuality and marriage. Yet, our progressive UM brothers and sisters abuse and confuse the truth, and bash those who love and honor truth. Their actions and words betray their emotionally-clever appeals.

        • Many clergy as well as hierarchy have sold laity short for too long. Just as those clergy types who have jumped through all the hoops to be able to be called “reverend” do to “course of study folks.” Second class citizens, you know!!

          umc congregations that are led by second career or third career pastors, in my mind, seem to the ones where Father/Son/Holy Spirit reigns. The small church that I attend–over the years–has paid its taxes IN FULL so that the person in the pulpit at the time would not be penalized–a favorite trick of the system for a long long time. Laity is not as dumb as the ‘shepherds’ would like to believe. That is among the reasons why taxes (apportionments) are going unpaid.

          Personally, my $$$ go to an organization that supports overseas missions–all of the $$$ I send them go to building the Kingdom of God–not so with a vast majority of the $$$ put in thousands of collection plates on Sunday mornings. It is time the “leaders” are held accountable for the corn they have become used to eating at trough–furnished by laymen and women.

          But then, hogs are not always mindful of their manners…………………………..

Your thoughts?

applications-education-miscellaneous.png
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)
 

*

Google+
%d bloggers like this: