(Photo: Kathleen Barry/ UMNS)
The United Methodist Church will review a bishop's decision to support a regional conference's resolution passed in support of same-sex marriage.
The denomination's highest court, the Judicial Council, will review the Desert Southwest Annual Conference's "Marriage Equality Resolution" in April it was announced.
In the recently released docket for the Judicial Council, the reproduced resolution stated that the Conference took a stand in favor of gay marriage, even though the UMC Book of Discipline defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
"…the Desert Southwest Annual Conference will support our clergy who take the bold and faithful stand to minister to all equally and include all in the life of the church, which includes but is not limited to, conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies where it is civically legal to do so," reads the resolution in part.
"Let it further be RESOLVED, that the Desert Southwest Annual Conference and the United Methodist Churches of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, will support (spiritually, emotionally and prayerfully) clergy who are brought up on charges for conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies."
Last July, the Arizona-based Desert Southwest Annual Conference passed the "Marriage Equality Resolution," validating the regional body's open support for the pro-LGBT wing of the mainline protestant denomination.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata, head of the Conference, decided to allow the resolution and concluded that it did not conflict with the Book of Discipline.
Supporters of the resolution included the Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization that works to change the UMC's official stance on homosexuality.
The RM Network provided The Christian Post with a statement from their executive director Matt Berryman, who said that "as the church continues to discriminate against gays and lesbians, the greater United Methodist Church will continue to place this injustice before our Judicial Council."
"With every visible act of harm inflicted on our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, United Methodists are increasingly galvanized to practice Biblical Obedience: radically welcoming all people into God's love and grace, affirming their witnesses of love for one another and faithfulness to God's call on their lives to serve the church," stated Berryman.
John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, told CP that was part of a trend of cases that continuously come before the Judicial Council.
"As long as the United Methodist Church continues as currently constituted, we can expect draining, emotional controversies over homosexuality, and sexual morality generally, to continue and even intensify through the foreseeable future," said Lomperis. "There is an extremely vocal, increasingly strident, and theologically secularized minority who have essentially adopted an 'anything goes' sexual ethos."
Lomperis also told CP that the Judicial Council may rule in favor of the resolution, given the UMC court's precedent of allowing for "aspirational" resolutions.
"Ideally, the Judicial Council will invalidate this 'marriage equality' resolution since it directly opposes our denomination's biblical teachings and basically encourages anarchic violations of the covenant which binds 'United' Methodists together," said Lomperis. "Sadly, what is more likely is that the Judicial Council will okay this resolution after arguing that the statement expresses an opinion without requiring anyone to violate church law."