Saturday, April 28, 2012

Faith and Order Recommendation Regarding Homosexuality and Ordination

The 2008 Book of Discipline has this paragraph written about ordination and homosexuality (Paragraph 204.3):

"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 homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."

Today, the Faith and Order committee submitted this wording instead, based on a petition presented by Chappel Temple (Petition 20994):

"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.  In our understanding of the biblical witness, sexual conduct that occurs outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman is incompatible with holy living.  Therefore, those who engage in such practices may not be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."

This clarifies the church's position on all human sexuality, and not just one issue.  It moves the focus from homosexuality to the highest standards of morality in regards to all sexual relationships.  While at first, it may seem like this is "removing language about homosexuality", it is actually affirming a standard that is in place for all ordained people. Furthermore, it removes language that has been used for many years and is harmful to others, without letting go of our standards.  It was approved by a 53-16 vote in our committee.

edit:
I have never been a part of a conversation around homosexuality where both sides come out excited about what happened.  In this case, both conservatives and liberals seem to like what we did.  I have talked to people from both camps who were in favor of what we accomplished today.  And moderates were the most delighted of all, I think. A progressive woman made the amendment that brought us to this place, and a conservative man (who made the original petition) spoke in favor of her petition!  There were obviously 16 people who voted against this petition - and I am confident that their beliefs were across the theological spectrum as well.  Votes like this never happen.  This may perhaps be bringing us to compromise, where we can move inward from the poles that we cling so tightly onto and move forward as a church.

6 comments:

  1. Does the word "may" leave it open for conferences to determine for themselves whether or not to certify and ordain? The softer language is good, but the injustice remains.

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    1. I would say "softer" as in "more gracious". I think that the "may" question will definitely be brought forth on the floor of GC.

      P.S. I follow your wife's blog all the time and love it!

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  2. It actually does not remove language about homosexuality. It just reframes it as "one man and one woman." It could do the same thing without including that part.

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    1. Yes, but then the historical standards of the church would be changed in this place. I am in no way say it changes our church's stance on homosexuality, but it does reframe the language. Instead of stating something in a negative, it choose to focus on the positive instead.

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  3. Get ready for questions about what defines "sexual conduct"

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    1. We had that discussion at our table, but not as a committee. I am sure they are coming though.

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