A couple of disclaimers. One, I am not overly well versed in the politics of the UMC. I may propose things that are not currently possible due to the government of the church. If that is the case, it may (or may not for that matter) indicate that some workings of the church government need to be redesigned and rethought. Two, these are ideas and rough thoughts. A first draft if you will of those ideas and thoughts. Three, there are bound to be things in here that are objectionable. There will be things in here that i do not particularly like and wish did not have to be. Before dismissing a thing that you do not like out of hand please take a moment and think it through rationally, not emotionally. Finally, please understand that anything in here is meant in a good spirit, and not intended to offend. Ok here go the thoughts…
A statement of faith needs drafted defining what we believe is necessary to be a Christian. Said statement needs to be a modern and easily understood rephrasing of the creeds that the Christian church has followed. The definitive ‘chargeable offenses’ in the UMC would be preaching anything contrary to orthodox, creedal faith. As an example, if a pastor denies the divinity of Christ, they should be removed. The only other chargeable offense that I would support would be membership or endorsement of the “unofficial caucus groups in the UMC. It is my opinion that they have caused more harm than good and need to be done away with.
A statement of what a Wesleyan emphasis on scripture is. Transformation to the likeness of Christ, a concern for equal treatment under law, support and help for those in need, etc. Said statement should be easy to understand and capture what makes us Wesleyan in our faith.
A statement recognizing that the historic position of the church has been that homosexual behavior is sinful, but that with a rise in belief regarding progressive revelation that there are questions about whether this should be the stand of the church. Whichever you choose to follow, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The statements seem silly, but I think they matter as they define our faith, our practice of it in the world and acknowledge that we are all Christians working for the same boss. The meat of it all…
Up on adoption of these ideas, each local church would have 2 years to initiate a special charge conference to vote on the idea of homosexual pastors. This charge conference should be held after no fewer than three question and answer sessions where both views of the scriptures are represented not in an adversarial manner but in an instructional one. Yes, there will inevitably be arguments, but people should be informed of both views of scripture. These informational sessions should be lay led and pastor supervised to keep argument to a minimum. No advocates for outside groups (RMN, Good News, love Prevails, etc. should be given voice at these sessions, only the membership of the church.) Each church would report to it’s district and on up to establish the numbers of potential vacancies there could be for homosexual pastors. No local church that does not wish to accept a homosexual pastor should be forced to do so under any circumstances.
Local churches will be able to decide if their facilities may be used for same sex weddings. Pastors who serve a church that does not wish to hold same sex ceremonies will not be forbidden or punished for performing those ceremonies in a different venue. No local church should be forced to hold them.
It would be left to the board of ordained ministry to discern who is qualified to be a pastor. That is their job. If they feel the need to make said judgement based upon sexual orientation, so be it. If not so be it.
Once the numbers are in for how many churches are willing to accept a homosexual pastor, that gives two years for those who are dealing with those numbers to come up with a realistic number of homosexual pastors that can be accommodated. I know that sounds as if it is meant to limit, but it is not. The UMC guarantees appointments (something which I do not at all like), and because of this, there is a limit to how many pastors in general and homosexual pastors specifically, should be ordained. That combined with the itinerant system does limit the number of realistic pastors.
At the GC after these things have been done, those numbers can be presented and approved. I would ignore designations of churches as ‘reconciling’ or ‘traditional’ etc. If people are concerned they can of course speak with their pastors and find out which flavor of church it is if you will. If visitors are concerned, they may do the same thing of course. By not using labels we passively affirm that we are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ.
There must be set in stone penalties for the chargeable offenses that I listed above. I would suggest for a first offense, a 30 day period for said pastor to consider their actions and discern whether or not the UMC is indeed their call, and after said period, reaffirm their vow to uphold the discipline, or have their credentials removed. For a second offense the credentials are removed. With the offenses being based in the historic creeds of the church and being about the core of Christianity, I do not find this unnecessarily harsh. These are my initial and admittedly very rough thoughts on the matter. I believe that some are similar to things which have already been proposed, but since asked, felt the need to present my thoughts.