Wesley Fellowship urges New York area colleagues to honor covenant

“We are saddened by the willingness of pastors within our New York Annual Conference to reject their ordination vows and the teaching of our church that goes back to Jesus and the apostles and to disobey the clear directive of our own bishop” says a group of evangelical United Methodist pastors after hearing that hundreds of their ministerial colleagues plan on conducting same-sex unions, even though the practice is forbidden by the denomination.

“Although we acknowledge the passion of their conviction,” the Wesley Fellowship statement continues, “we feel bound to hold to the covenant that binds us as a church.” (The full text of the Wesley Fellowship statement can be found at http://wesleyfellowshipnyac.wordpress.com/.)

The Wesley Fellowship, an orthodox group of laity and clergy within the United Methodist Church in the New York/Connecticut area, issued their challenge in response to “A Covenant of Conscience,” a statement from 164 United Methodist clergy in New York indicating their availability and willingness to conduct same-sex marriages.

The United Methodist Church has an unambiguous statement that supports marriage only between a man and a woman. Furthermore, the world-wide denomination has restated its position every four years at its General Conference––the only entity that can speak officially for The United Methodist Church.

Conducting same-sex marriages is explicitly disallowed by the denomination. United Methodist clergy may not conduct such ceremonies, and the wedding services may not be conducted on United Methodist properties.

Clergy members “have an obligation to uphold the teaching of the Church,” says The Wesley Fellowship statement. “At ordination candidates agree to support and maintain our church government and polity (Book of Discipline, paragraph 336).” The Wesley Fellowship reminds their clergy colleagues that if they fulfill their pledge to conduct homosexual unions, they will be breaking the covenant that all United Methodists pledged to uphold.

The Wesley Fellowship statement also makes it clear that only the General Conference can speak for the entire denomination. It alone is the only entity that can change the denomination’s position on a controversial and sensitive matter such as homosexuality and same-sex unions.

Even though the states of New York and Connecticut may recognize same-sex unions, United Methodism cannot and does not. “The Church has a long tradition of maintaining its standards apart from those recognized or permitted by any civil authority,” stated the United Methodist Judicial Council, the highest court within the denomination, in April 2011. “The Church’s definition of marriage as contained in the Discipline is clear and unequivocal and is limited to the union of one man and one woman.”

—The Wesley Fellowship