Lesbian UMC Pastor on Involuntary Leave for Violating Rules on Homosexual Clergy

A lesbian pastor of the United Methodist Church was put on involuntary leave for violating the denomination's ban on having "self-avowed" homosexual clergy.

The Reverend Cynthia Meyer of Edgerton United Methodist Church in Kansas agreed earlier this week to the punishment in order to avoid a church trial.

According to the UMC Great Plains Annual Conference, the regional body which Meyer was part of, the involuntary leave is part of a resolution process.

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"Rev. Meyer will go on involuntary leave of absence as of September 1st, 2016 with permission of the Executive Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry," stated the Annual Conference.

"Meyer's credentials will remain as they are up to 90 days following the close of the next General Conference. During that time [Meyer] may not perform the duties of an Elder."

The Annual Conference proceeded to note that Meyer can still "be hired by any church or church agency to perform functions equivalent to those of a lay staff person."

Delegates pray before a plenary session at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
Delegates pray before a plenary session at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. | (Photo: Facebook/United Methodist General Conference)

"If General Conference approves some new structure which would allow Rev. Meyer to be in good standing within some aspect of that new structure, then her full status would be restored immediately," continued Great Plains.

The punishment came in response to a complaint filed against Meyer back in January when she came out to her congregation during a sermon.

According to the UMC Book of Discipline rules on ordination, individuals in same-sex relationships cannot become clergy.

"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," reads the Book of Discipline.

"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."

In a footnote, the Book of Discipline defines the phrase "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" as being "a person [who] 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."

The UMC's official position against homosexuality has garnered divisive debate between theological liberals and conservatives within the mainline denomination.

At the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, delegates approved a recommendation by the Council of Bishops to form a committee to put a moratorium on legislation to amend the Church's position on homosexuality while a committee examines the Book of Discipline's language on the issue.

"We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality," read the recommendation.

"We will name such a commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes."

The recommendation did not involve a finalized plan, with it noting that a special General Conference might be called as early as 2018, as opposed to the planned 2020 General Conference.

"We have discussed in depth the processes which might help our Church heal and move forward — up to and including the possibility of a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019," continued the recommendation.

"We have not finalized our plans for such processes, but we will keep working on options we have heard from many of you, and we will keep reporting to this General Conference and to the whole Church."

Regarding the resolution and involuntary leave, Meyer said in a statement published by the Annual Conference that the UMC "is now in a liminal moment, filled with possibility."

"I hope that the UMC, through a fully representative, inclusive commission, then a focused General Conference, will intentionally, prayerfully remove all discriminatory language and practice from its Book of Discipline," continued Meyer.

"I continue to live in hope, even as I seek new ways to live out at least part of my calling, while I am forbidden for administering the sacraments and other duties and ministries of ordained elders."

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