During the 2013 Southwest Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, Mary Ann Kaiser was removed from consideration for an interview with her Board of Ordained Ministry because of her sexual orientation. That action was appealed from the floor of the Annual Conference and Bishop Dorff was allowed 30 days to rule if the action was allowable by The Book of Discipline, The UMC lawbook. You can read the full ruling here and Mary Ann’s response below. The Bishop’s ruling will now head to the Judicial Council.
After reading the Bishop’s decision of law as stated on the Southwest Texas Conference website, I remain deeply grieved at the decisions of our church leadership. I had full confidence that the Bishop would take the ascribed 30 days to discern a conviction one way or another on whether or not it is within UMC polity to remove me without ever meeting me. Instead, the Bishop has chosen to argue a technicality. Because the Board of Ordained Ministry acted to remove my name from candidacy (in violation of Disciplinary paragraphs 635.2h and 635.2j), I was not recommended to the Annual Conference and thus my case was no longer “germane” to the business of Annual Conference. In other words, once the Board decided to remove me, a day later, the Bishop suggests, I was no longer conference business.
By this line of reasoning, a Board of Ordained Ministry could decide that it would no longer consider the candidacy of women or racial minorities and the conference would have no authority to overrule, even in cases (such as my own) which act in overt disregard of the Book of Discipline since, in the words of Bishop Dorff, “The request raises issues related only to the work of the Board of Ordained Ministry.” I wonder if this sort of unbridled authority is intended for any governing body of the church.
Bishop Dorff has clearly renounced his responsibility to “guard the Discipline of the Church (par. 403.1)” by refusing to hold an official body of the annual conference accountable to carry out clear mandates of the Discipline. There is nothing “moot” or “hypothetical” about my case at all. I was recommended as a certified candidate by my district committee on ordained ministry. The Board of Ordained Ministry refused to interview or examine me in violation of the above cited paragraphs. The bishop has chosen to ignore this neglect of responsibility and disregard for a relational process by simply washing his hands of the matter.
I remain encouraged by the support of my home church that stands along side of me proudly as well as by the letters and words of support I have received from folks across Texas and beyond. It has been clearly communicated to me that members of the UMC who come from a wide range of political, social, and religious beliefs wish to see the rules of the Book of Discipline upheld in my case, granting an interview. I remain confident that the Judicial Council will rectify this injustice and will hold the Southwest Texas Annual Conference and Bishop Dorff accountable to follow the Discipline of the church.
Thank you to all who continue to stand with me as we listen for the guidance of the Spirit and continuously call our Church to live into the vision of community Christ offered us.
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