As The United Methodist Church Judicial Council gathered in Los Angeles last week, they examined three items related to LGBTQ people, among others on the docket. Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and our allies have once again been in prayer since the closed meeting started, hoping that the Judicial Council would take a small step towards recognizing the gifts and graces that LGBTQ United Methodists bring to churches across the connection by issuing rulings that do not allow continued harm.
In this particular set of rulings released from the October docket, the Judicial Council has declared the following:
1. Constitutional challenge on “incompatible with Christian Teaching” – The Denmark Conference’s question regarding the constitutionality of the “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Book of Discipline was untouched by the Judicial Council. They regarded the question itself outside of the authority of the Conference to ask and thus outside of the authority of the Council to rule upon. The language stands.
2. Ruling of law in Baltimore-Washington – The Council affirmed the ruling of law from Bishop Latrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference which declared that a clergy session cannot vote on a candidate for ministry that the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) has not put forward for that annual conference session.
3. Ruling of law in Iowa – The Council also affirmed the ruling of Bishop Laurie Haller in the Iowa Annual Conference who argued that it was not within her authority to reopen the complaint process completed by a prior Bishop against Rev. Anna Blaedel for being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
Rev. Anna Blaedel reflected on the ruling by saying, “I am relieved to have this dehumanizing, disempowering process resolved, for now. However, I proudly remain a ‘self-avowed, practicing homosexual.’ I delight in my queerness, and my relationship with my beloved. I lament the use of loopholes to hide any aspect of queer life and love. Queer and trans people are sacred, holy, and fully compatible with Jesus’s teachings, ministry, and witness. Any practice, policy, loophole, or ruling that suggests otherwise is harmful and incompatible with God’s kin-dom.”
Jan Lawrence, Interim Executive Director of RMN, expressed gratitude that the Judicial Council affirmed the ruling in Iowa. She also said, “We rejoice that the Rev. Anna Blaedel no longer has the threat of a charge being reopened hanging over their head. While we celebrate with Anna, we are also saddened that the Judicial Council did not take up the constitutionality of ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ question asked by Denmark and CalPac, and that the Judicial Council affirmed the ruling in Baltimore-Washington. It is disappointing that the church so faithfully served by LGBTQ United Methodists continues to do harm through its Judicial Council rulings.”
T.C. Morrow reflected on the rulings, “In continuing to respond to God’s call on our lives, my LGBTQ siblings and I follow Christ into all corners of the world and seek to encourage others to do the same.” Lawrence also added that, “It is the ministry of those who refuse to be denied their calling, like Rev. Anna Blaedel and T.C. Morrow, that inspires us to do the work that we do for affirmation and justice in the church.”
As always, the impact of the Judicial Council rulings remains in the hands of United Methodists across the connection. There is no way to simply receive and obey the laws of the church and remain faithful to the way of Jesus Christ as long as discrimination is embedded within the United Methodist Book of Discipline. It is the responsibility of each individual, church, board, and committee to decide how to be in ministry with all people according to Christ’s way of justice and liberation.
Though the church may attempt to “prevent” full inclusion through rulings and legislation, our faithfulness will prevent us from abiding by any rules that destroy! We carry on together in the work of freeing our church from prejudice and its LGBTQ members from being ruled upon as objects of law. We celebrate LGBTQ lives and loves and all who labor for the day when the church does the same.