There are several, even one from the conservative side, plans on how to stay together. Most, if not all, require a great deal of legislative action — which may or may not make it through the Judicial Council. They would require a moving of heaven and earth to deal with what may — I say this by stepping back and looking at a document, and in no way do I mean to divorce the morality, justice, and emotional attachments to this issue — a simple issue.
As I covered in my initial plan, I believe one simple step may help quiet down some quarters.
The below comes from the Book of Discipline, which also contains large amounts of words dedicated to insuring ministers and agencies “do no harm” to gay Christians.
The Language as it Stands Now:
¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.2
¶ 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
These are my proposed changes:
¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world.
The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachingThe United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
¶ 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted
by our ministers and shall not be conductedin our churches or on property owned by the United Methodist Church. Recognizing that the call of God is an exercise of conscience, ministers may at their own discretion choose to perform homosexual unions in accordance with their state laws and regulations, provided that no such union or any event related to such ceremony shall take place at a United Methodist church.
I would suggest adding a hefty penalty for those who violate 341.6, a penalty removed from the Bishop’s hands. For example, and only as an example, if a minister is charged with violating 341.6, they will be immediately tried before a panel of visiting Bishops and District Superintendents. The only decision to be made is if the person actually performed a gay marriage on church grounds. If they did, they will immediately be defrocked across the UMC with no hope of return to ordination status. In other words, if the person violated this rule, then no one could stop the penalty.
I am unaware of the authority of the United Methodist Church to say what is and what is not pure Christian teaching. Further, not all Christians believe the same thing about this issue. It is like saying “Christian teaching” in regards to Arminianism and Calvinism or women’s ordination. “Christian teaching” is a term used by one side to dismiss the other. Homosexuality has always been condemned, however, by the United Methodist Church and its forebearers. But, we have to recognize that we are not the only authority on Christian teaching and equally recognize that what we consider “Christian,” others do not (i.e., infant baptism, the real presence, social justice). Thus, allow ministers to conduct gay marriages if their state allows for it, outside of their appointments and away from a United Methodist church. We may also include something along “with permission from _____” with such a space filled in with either a Bishop or perhaps even the SPC.
John Wesley, in his sermon On Conscience, writes, “Whatever it directs you to do, according to the word of God, do; however grievous to flesh and blood. Whatever it forbids, if the prohibition be grounded on the word of God, see you do it not; however pleasing it may be to flesh and blood.”3 While many may disagree with the conscience of these ministers to bless same-sex marriage, if they themselves find it grounded upon Scripture, how then can we rightfully prevent them? That is our Wesleyan distinctiveness, that we have a certain amount of liberty in our conscience, but it is bound to the freedom from Scripture.4 implies liberty to follow where conscience, word, and Spirit lead.” (37).]
Further, Wesley knows that there are times we must “obey God rather than men:”
In things forbidden of God, we dare not obey them; for we are to obey God rather than man. In things enjoined of God, we do not properly obey them, but our common Father. Therefore, if we are to obey them at all, it must be in things indifferent. The sum is, it is the duty of every private Christian to obey his spiritual Pastor, by either doing or leaving undone anything of an indifferent nature; anything that is no way determined in the Word of God.5
I believe in full inclusion because I do not think Scripture warrants exclusion; however, I also believe in order. I recognize the only thing that will actually hurt me (although I hope all injustice, heretical error, or oppression hurts each of us) is a separation because I am a straight, white male who is not in the ordained ministry of the United Methodist Church. Further, I just got here. I am not a cradle United Methodist and do not have family ties in the UMC. This does not stop me from caring for it and wanting to see it preserved, however.
I affectionately called this the “Boy Scout Option” for several reasons. One, it allows for a soft-compromise that will charge people to their conscience. Two, it requires a strict honor system. But, I think now we should call it the Wesley Conscience Option.
- Four Reasons Why “a Way Forward for a United Methodist Church”… Isn’t (peopleneedjesus.wordpress.com)
- “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020 ↩
- See Judicial Council Decisions 984, 985, 1027, 1028 ↩
- Wesley’s sermons are included in our foundational documents and as such must be consulted and used in the formation of doctrine.” ↩
- Liberty of conscience “means liberty to hear and heed the voice of conscience; the freedom to study the word of Scripture which informs conscience, to engage in the hermeneutical task so that Scripture may be opened; and taught by the Spirit of truth.” - Leon O Hynson, “John Wesley’s Concept of Liberty of Conscience,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 7 (1972): 43 and “In a word, [liberty of conscience ↩
- John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986), 114. ↩