Will this be the year? Of the five principal mainline denominations, the Methodists are the last to allow gay clergy. Next week, the General Conference begins in Tampa, and I present three views from around the blogosphere.
First, my own slice of history.
In 1972, a gay Methodist pastor, defrocked by his own conference in Texas, took his case to the General Conference. He was rejected there also, and the tired delegates late in the session enacted a resolution that has haunted Methodist policy ever since.
We do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice to be incompatible with Christian teaching.
Subsequent Conference actions over the years “piled on”. In 1976, a “no-funding” resolution was passed that prohibited use of national church funds for …
any ‘gay’ caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.
In 1984, after a Denver bishop had ordained a lesbian, a General Conference resolution responded,
Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
In 1996, clergy were prohibited from performing covenant ceremonies, and in the late nineties, Pastor Jimmy Creech of Nebraska was defrocked for doing so and Pastor Greg Dell of Chicago was suspended. I will be having lunch with pastor Dell next week. In 2011, Wisconsin Pastor Amy DeLong was also convicted of performing a covenant ceremony, but her punishment was a mere slap on the wrist compared to the Creech and Dell cases.
Here’s a link to the first blog post, which is actually on the UMC official website. It doesn’t take a position but goes into greater detail about the past history.
Traditionalist Tim Tennant, President of Asbury Seminary (an independent, evangelical seminary that trains many Methodists), suggests the Methodists need some “old time religion”. His post offers three suggestions that may be summarized as imposing a conservative litmus test for seminarians: a) the UMC “must insist that all United Methodist Seminaries (official and approved) embody a truly Wesleyan ethos and theology which is faithful to our history,” b) “the bishops must certify that all pastors are historically orthodox,” and c) “the Seminaries who train United Methodist clergy must reclaim biblical preaching.” There’s more, but you get the drift.
Finally, here’s a link to back issues of Katalyst, the quarterly newsletter of the Reconciling Ministries Network. Here’s a sampler from the last newsletter from an article written by Bishop Melvin Talbert:
For forty years, ten quadrennia, our church has continued its discriminating and hurtful language in our Book of Discipline. How long will it be for our church to become the shining light of justice for GLBTQ people in our midst? Our church will not glorify God by its witness as long as we deny the full inclusion of all persons, specifically GLBTQs, in all aspects of our life together. The world is watching, and so are our daughters, sons, granddaughters, and grandsons. We are called to love our neighbors. Is that too much to ask?