Last week, three separate matters related to LGBTQ discrimination in The United Methodist Church were examined by the Judicial Council. Thanks to the ongoing witness and commitment to Biblical Obedience of a growing many, we know that regardless of any decisions rooted in our discriminatory policies, God is using the people to lead us in an unstoppable direction of love and inclusion. We can, therefore, look to the decisions made by those in power as indicators of whether and how much the institution is following the leading of the Spirit and the clear trajectory of the church without also giving them any undue power.
As was expected, the Judicial Council ruled in agreement with the ruling of law issued by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar regarding “the constitutionality and legality of a resolution titled ‘Action of Non-Conformity With the General Conference of The United Methodist Church.’” Much of the resolution was ruled “out of order” by Bishop Devadhar earlier this fall and the Judicial Council affirmed his decision. We applaud the faithfulness of the people of the New England Annual Conference who recognize that the gospel calls us to being ruled “out of order” in relationship to any form of discrimination. Read more about our response to Bishop Devadhar’s ruling here.
Two rulings related to the ordination of LGBTQ persons were also released, both of which will require further examination by their respective bishops before any conclusions are drawn. Bishop Sally Dyck in the Northern Illinois Conference and Bishop Jane Allen Middleton will have until December 31, 2016 to rule on the following:
- Is the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry required to ascertain whether a candidate meets the qualifications for candidacy and ordained ministry, including whether or not she or he is exhibiting fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” or is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual?”
- Can the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry legally recommend to the clergy session a candidate whom they believe to be a self-avowed practicing homosexual or otherwise in violation of the fidelity and celibacy standard?
Their rulings will once again be examined by the Judicial Council during their spring meeting in 2017.
We pray for courage and wisdom for both Bishop Dyck and Bishop Middleton as they pursue these questions of law in light of the gospel’s call to love, justice, and faithfulness. We also hold in prayer all the calledoutOUT clergy whose lives are affected by these rulings – particularly in the Northern Illinois and New York annual conferences.
While those in judicial and episcopal leadership continue to parse words and policies related to our discriminatory teachings, we will carry on in the work of leading the church to a more faithful version of itself. The church can only delay institutional justice for so long when we are all moving forward together without fear, without despair, and in faithful determination that we follow the guidance of the Spirit first, and our church leaders second.
Read the full account of each Judicial Council decision here.