Baltimore-Washington BOM recommends married lesbian for commissioning

Tara "T.C." Morrow speaks at the Close Guantanamo vigil in 2013Photo courtesy MFSA

Tara “T.C.” Morrow speaks at the Close Guantanamo Vigil in 2013
Photo courtesy MFSA

The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, meeting last month, recommended Tara “T.C.” Morrow for commissioning as a Provisional Deacon. Morrow is a woman married to another woman.

The Board is making public what is normally a confidential personnel matter in an effort to be as transparent and open as possible, according to its chair, the Rev. Charles Parker.

Both Parker and the Board are fully aware that the 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve” in the church (¶304.3).

The church further states in ¶2702.1(b)  that being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” is a chargeable offense that could result in a clergy person being placed on trial and losing their credentials.

“Two people of the same gender being married or living together is a basis for investigation,” Parker said, “not a basis for a decision,” citing ruling 1263 of the Judicial Council – the church’s version of the United States Supreme Court.

“Self-avowed” is defined by the Book of Discipline (footnote 1 for ¶304.3) where a person has “openly acknowledged to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee on ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual.”

“Practicing,” Parker said, according to Judicial Council rulings 1027 and 980, is understood to mean “genital sex” with a person of the same gender.

In the case of Morrow, he said, “we all know that she is married. We can make assumptions, but we don’t tend to question candidates on their specific sexual practices whether they are hetero or homosexual.” Parker said that he believes the Board is on “solid disciplinary grounds.”

A statement from the Board notes that they, the annual conference, and The United Methodist Church “are not of one mind on the issue of ordination of LGBTQ individuals,  and that our Judicial Council has issued multiple rulings regarding ordination and the definition of ‘self-avowed, practicing homosexuals’ that create further ambiguity. We therefore affirm the right and responsibility of all Board members to engage in holy conferencing during deliberations and to vote their conscience following a fair examination of all candidates.”

Parker, who serves as senior pastor at Metropolitan Memorial UMC in Washington, D.C., said that the Board engaged in a process with and for Morrow that sought to rid itself of the denomination’s “unhealthy ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ model,” and create a spirit of openness and honesty in the Board’s deliberations.  “We have sought to be faithful to a more Wesleyan model of what it means to be church, in which people of differing opinions can be open and faithful in their process of Holy Conferencing,” Parker said.

In January, Morrow came forward for her Board of Ordained Ministry exam. To get to that point, she first had to be approved by her District Board of Ordained Ministry. Morrow is a member of Foundry UMC on the Greater Washington District and employed by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, based in Washington.

The BWC Board of Ordained Ministry consists of 54 people, both clergy and lay. Members of the Board are appointed by the bishop to serve four-year terms; members may serve no more than two terms. The Board elects its own officers.

As with all candidates, Morrow had to submit a Bible study, a sermon and other written materials. Board members read each candidate’s materials and create a “profile” of each candidate, Parker said. That profile is compiled by a member of the Board.

Morrow’s “profiler” was the Rev. Janet Craswell, chair of the Order of Deacons for the BWC and on staff at Metropolitan Memorial UMC. It is only after the profile is considered that a candidate is invited to the full Board exam, Craswell said, and not every candidate who comes forward is invited for an exam.

During the exam, Parker said, leadership was clear that Morrow was married to another woman. This was an effort, Parker said, to again be “honest and transparent with one another.”

“We didn’t ignore the Book of Discipline,” Parker said. “We had meaty conversations. Our board has differing feelings about homosexuality. What our Board did was a wonderful combination of respecting the authority we have and harkening back to what Wesleyan theological debate looks like.

“People of good faith should be able to differ,” Parker added.

With same-gender marriage a civil right across the country, Parker said the Board knew that one day they would have LGBTQ candidates come forward who were married. With that in mind, and knowing that Morrow was in the candidacy process, the Board brought in JustPeace to facilitate conversations about homosexuality and the Discipline before she arrived. That full-day conversation took place last November.

“That conversation was actually extremely holy,” Parker said, noting that people with differing viewpoints felt heard and acknowledged. “We felt a lot of the Holy Spirit work happening.”

JustPeace, the Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation of The United Methodist Church, began in May 1999 as an off-shoot of the General Council on Finance and Administration. Based in Washington, it acts as third-party facilitators for resolving conflict.

In order for a candidate to be recommended by BoOM to the full clergy session, that person must receive at least 75 percent of the vote. Parker did not reveal the exact vote in favor of recommendation.

The board’s recommendation will go forward to the clergy executive session meeting on June 1, during the Annual Conference Session. Both Parker and Craswell said that they have never witnessed a clergy executive session turning down a candidate that the Board recommends.

Bishop Marcus Matthews chairs the clergy executive session, but does not have a vote. He can only rule on the suitability of a candidate if a question is raised during the clergy session or during Annual Conference.

“I hope the vote will be favorable,” Parker said. “I hope every clergy member will vote their  conscience.”



This story originally published at

Erik Alsgaard, UMR Correspondent

Erik Alsgaard

UMR Correspondent The Rev. Erik Alsgaard is a member of the Detroit Conference, on loan to the Baltimore-Washington Conference, serving in the Ministry of Communications there as Editor of the UMConnection newspaper.

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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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Paul D.
Paul D.

While we can agree to disagree throughout the Church, as well noted here, there is no way one can reasonably argue that marrying someone of the same gender does not fit the description of being a self-avowed practicing homosexual. That’s disengenuous to the transparency being proclaimed. If you’re going to just do away with the Diciplinary standard, then have the honesty to say it. At least then everyone understands and is honest about what’s at stake when the time comes.


That is how it goes. Take an openly homosexual candidate through the process to ordination. Do that enough and eventually we will have an openly homosexual nominee for bishop. Once that person is made bishop there will be no way to stop it since the process was in accordance with our polity. Filing charges against that bishop will be pointless since the bishop’s jurisdiction will be unlikely to take any real action and there you go. Done deal. A whole new policy is in place without changing a single word in the BoD. After that there will be shrill arguments… Read more »

Sandy Wylie
Sandy Wylie

The UMC had a gay bishop some years ago. He was a caring, competent bishop who served as well as any other bishop.

Paul W.
Paul W.

My understanding is that 1) there is still controversy over whether or not he was gay (both he and his family denied it and anonymous rumors are the primary evidence for the claim), but more importantly, 2) even if he was, he still chose to personally speak out against the immorality of homosexual behavior. Just as with many who succumb to the sin of adultery, one can succumb to homosexual sin, yet still continue to recognize clearly that it is sin.

Paul W.
Paul W.

At the judgment, God will have no interest in how cute we thought we were while redefining sin as holiness, how we laughed as we played semantic games to violate the will of Christ and His church, or how we used “facilitation” to slyly delude and salve our consciences.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. While there is life, hope remains; after death, only the judgment.

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