- (Photo compliments of Reconciling Ministries Network)
Controversy has erupted over the Southwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church's decision to not certify a clergy candidate allegedly due to her being a lesbian.
STAC's Board of Ordained Ministry refused to certify Mary Ann Kaiser for ordained ministry after it was shown to them that she was a lesbian. The decision has sparked outrage from supporters of Kaiser both within and without the United Methodist Church.
According to the UMC Book of Discipline, "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" are banned from "being certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
Bishop James E. Dorff, head of the Southwest Texas Conference, released a statement on Tuesday saying that he would investigate the matter.
"It is my responsibility to rule on the question placed before me regarding the action of the Board. I will do so within the next 30 days. My ruling will be posted on our Annual Conference website," said Dorff.
"The decision I make is not final. It will automatically be reviewed by the denomination's Judicial Council. They will either affirm or reject my ruling. Their ruling is final."
According to the United Methodist Reporter, Mary Ann Kaiser was certified as a candidate for deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference in 2008.
Since then, she earned a Master of Divinity at the United Methodist-approved Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and presently works with the Austin District Committee on Ordained Ministry.
Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-LGBT Methodist organization, has been a vocal supporter of Kaiser's ordination and argues that the board's decision was discriminatory. RMN argues that the UMC Book of Discipline allows for "non-practicing" homosexuals to be ordained, thus Kaiser should not have been disqualified.
The Rev. Andy Oliver, communications director for Reconciling Ministries Network, told The Christian Post that the case regarding Kaiser is "unique."
"Her church and district committee (which is a subcommittee of her conference Board of Ordained Ministry) all approved her for ordination," said Oliver.
"She had an interview scheduled with the conference board, but without even meeting her, they recommended to the clergy of the conference to vote not to give her an interview because she is a lesbian."
Oliver also told CP that he felt the decision before Bishop Dorff was "a simple issue of church polity."
"Should the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry be allowed to block an interview of a candidate based alone on someone's sexual identity? The Discipline does not list this alone as a restriction," said Oliver.
"I'm positive that he will rule that the vote of the clergy was out of order, reinstating Mary Ann as a certified candidate for ordained ministry."
John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist Action Program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that he believed the Kaiser controversy was "manufactured."
"The Reconciling Ministries Network … announced back in April that Miss Kaiser would be wedded to her lesbian partner at RMN's upcoming convocation," said Lomperis.
"But now RMN and its powerful secular allies are dishonestly saying that Kaiser's ordination is being derailed because of her 'orientation' while ignoring the facts of her practice."
Lomperis also told CP that he believed Bishop Dorff should "make sure proper procedure is being followed."
"But he should also do what our bishops have generally not had the courage to do: offer some much-needed Christian leadership by publicly defending our biblical teaching," said Lomperis.