UMC Bishop Issues Ruling Regarding Lesbian Ordination Candidate

A Texas bishop of the United Methodist Church has officially ruled against considering an official question over a woman barred from candidacy for ordination allegedly for being a lesbian.

Bishop James E. Dorff of the UMC San Antonio Episcopal Area ruled Tuesday that a request regarding Mary Ann Kaiser "moot" after she was barred from candidacy by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference.  "My ruling is that the request, as presented, is moot and hypothetical. Therefore, the request is improper and no decision on the substance of the request will be given," said Dorff in a statement released Tuesday.

"This ruling has been forwarded to the Judicial Council of the church for review. They will either affirm this decision or return it to me for further action. The Council's next meeting is in October."

Dorff also mentioned the issue at the heart of the controversy, namely the UMC's ban on non-celibate homosexuals becoming ordained ministers.

"I have come to believe that some persons expected my ruling on this request to somehow change the requirements for ordination in the United Methodist Church," stated Dorff.

"I do not have such authority. The position of the Church cannot be changed by any committee, board, annual conference, or Bishop. Only the General Conference can make such changes. It meets again in 2016."

Mary Ann Kaiser was certified as a candidate for deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference in 2008. Since then, she graduated with a Master of Divinity at the United Methodist-approved Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and works with the Austin District Committee on Ordained Ministry.

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."

Earlier this year the Southwest Texas Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry refused to certify Kaiser's candidacy due to her being in a same-sex relationship.

Last month, the Rev. John Elford, senior pastor of University United Methodist Church asked Bishop Dorff to rule if "a board of ordained ministry can discontinue the candidacy of a certified candidate for ordained ministry who has been appropriately recommended by a district committee on ordained ministry without an interview and examination by that board of ordained ministry."

In a statement posted on the pro-LGBT Methodist group Reconciling Ministries Network's website, Kaiser expressed disappointment at Dorff's decision.

"The bishop has chosen to ignore this neglect of responsibility and disregard for a relational process by simply washing his hands of the matter," said Kaiser.

"I remain confident that the Judicial Council will rectify this injustice and will hold the Southwest Texas Annual Conference and Bishop Dorff accountable to follow the Discipline of the church."

John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist Action Program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said 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 in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.

"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."

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