UMC high court affirms decision to strike down attempt to allow non-celibate LGBT clergy

United Methodist Church General Conference
Supporters of full inclusion for LGBT persons in the life of The United Methodist Church demonstrate in the observer's area at the UMC special session of General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. |

The United Methodist Church’s highest court has affirmed the striking down of parts of a resolution passed by a regional body that called for the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

The UMC Dakotas Annual Conference narrowly passed a resolution last year that, among other things, demanded that the Board of Ordained Ministry ignore the denomination’s rules against ordaining individuals in same-sex romantic relationships.

In a decision released Monday, the United Methodist Judicial Council upheld a “Bishop’s Decision of Law” that concluded the resolution was partially in violation of the UMC Book of Discipline.

The Judicial Council upheld parts of the resolution, considering them “aspirational” rather than being statements that called for overt defiance of the Book of Discipline rules on ordination.

Specifically, the high court considered the resolution's call for the UMC to “invite and welcome LGBTQ+ persons at all levels of leadership” to be “null and void” given the stance of the Book of Discipline.

However, the resolution statement urging “local United Methodist Churches in the Dakotas Conference to welcome and include LGBTQ+ members in full participation within the local church” was labeled “aspirational” and thus was acceptable under Church law.

Last June, the UMC Dakotas Annual Conference held its 28th session, in which delegates passed Resolution 1.2 in a vote of 179 to 172.

Also known as “A Vision for a More Just Church,” the resolution claimed that the UMC’s current stance on gay ordination was harming the LGBT community.

“Therefore, be it resolved, we urge the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church to intentionally invite and welcome LGBTQ+ persons at all levels of leadership,” stated the resolution, in part.

“Be it further resolved, we urge the Board of Ordained Ministry to not consider a candidates’ sexual orientation in evaluating qualifications for ordination.”

Resolution 1.2 also urged the bishop to “refrain from conducting clergy trials related to ordinations of LGBTQ+ persons or same-sex marriages.”

“Be it further resolved, we respect our clergys’ faithful discernment regarding whom they will and will not marry — knowing that some will choose to marry same-sex couples and others will not,” it added.

Over the past several years, the UMC has been embroiled in increasingly divisive debate over whether to change its official stance affirming the traditional definition of marriage and labeling homosexuality a sin.

Although efforts to change the official stance at General Conference has failed over and over, many progressives in the UMC continue to oppose the rules, at times refusing to enforce them.

This has led a growing number of conservatives within the UMC to conclude that it would be best to simply leave the mainline denomination and launch their own new denomination, known as the Global Methodist Church.

Earlier this month, the Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference voted unanimously to leave the UMC and join the Global Methodist Church when it officially launches in May.

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