Openly Gay, Married Woman Recommended as Provisional Deacon

By Walter Fenton

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 3.38.44 PMIn open defiance of The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline and less than three months before General Conference, the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry announced that it has recommended Tara “T.C.” Morrow for commissioning as a Provisional Deacon. Morrow is married to another woman. The recommendation came during the board’s January meeting when it regularly considers candidates for commissioning.

In an article by Erik Alsgaard, the Rev. Charles Parker, chair of the board, acknowledged that, “We all know [Morrow] is married… but we don’t tend to question candidates on specific sexual practices whether they are hetero or homosexual.”

In a statement released by the conference board, it said, “[We], our annual conference, and The United Methodist Church are not of one mind on the issue of ordination of LGBTQ individuals, and that our Judicial Council has issued multiple rulings regarding ordination and the definition of ‘self-avowed, practicing homosexuals’ that create further ambiguity. We therefore affirm the right and responsibility of all Board members to engage in holy conferencing during deliberations and to vote their conscience following a fair examination of all candidates.”

Delegates to past General Conferences have strongly supported the church’s historical affirmation that the Christian model for marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman. They have also rejected, by two-to-one margins, any attempts to reverse the church’s rulings that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve” in the church. Clergy persons who openly identify as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” can be charged for violating church teachings and lose their ministerial credentials.

The board’s decision to recommend Morrow is another act of defiance in a list of high profile protests on the heels of the 2012 General Conference. Shortly after the delegates turned aside an attempt to liberalize the church’s teachings on marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy, LGBTQ advocates across the denomination called on clergy and lay people to ignore the decisions of General Conference, the body of clergy and laity, which meets every four years, and is the sole authoritative voice for the church.

Just six weeks ago, the Rev. Cynthia Meyer announced to her Edgerton, Kansas, congregation that she is gay and living in partnered relationship with another woman. Shortly after her announcement a formal complaint was filed against her, and her case is currently under the supervisory response process outlined in the Book of Discipline.

Morrow’s official commissioning as a Deacon still requires the approval of a clergy executive session, which meets June 1, 2016. Bishop Marcus Matthews, the episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Area, will preside over the session. Unless questions are raised about Morrow’s fitness to serve as a provisional Deacon, Matthews is likely to officially commission her.

However, a formal complaint could still be filed against Morrow after commissioning. In 2004 a 13-member jury of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference voted to remove the Rev. Beth Stroud’s ministerial credentials after she disclosed she was in a gay relationship. Stroud was temporarily reinstated by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, but its decision was ultimately overturned by the Judicial Council, the UM Church’s highest judicial body.

Delegates from Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the United States will gather in Portland, Oregon, this May for the 2016 General Conference. They will once again consider numerous petitions calling on the UM Church to either liberalize its teachings on marriage and human sexuality, maintain the status quo, or adopt rules for stronger accountability.

After the past few years of serial acts of defiance and spotty accountability, many United Methodists are wondering if General Conference can put the genie back in the bottle.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.

Comments

  1. This strategic, planned out antic by the left is a new low for them. The convoluted, legalistic double-talk, subterfuge jargon used to arrive at this decision would make many secular organizations blush from shame. Surely the church cannot stand by on this one and allow this or any conference to write new church law at their whim. This one must be stopped. Otherwise, there’s no church law, and the Book of Discipline can be thrown out and General conference abolished.

    • You have that one right! If they cannot get this under control before GC2020, I see no reason to hold one–the problem is not the question of sexuality, it is how this issue is slowly but surely destroying the integrity of General Conference.

  2. The opening statement ( open defiance) is the key tactic that the LGBTQ will be using at the GC 2016 meeting. They are desperate to change the UMC. Being desperate, orthodox Methodist will have to be sharper, steadfast, and a bulwark in their defense of traditional values.

    I have read where at least 2 “Renewal” groups will present division Resolutions to separate the Church according to progressive vs. traditional beliefs. The Episcopal Church has already experienced this kind of separation. World magazine 12 / 28 / 2013 issue states ” the breaking with the Episcopal Church, many Anglican congregations have lost beautiful buildings but have gained something greater.

    If such a Resolution is presented, Delegates should not settle for a consolation proposal to avoid schism, but should trust in the Ancient of Days to give you a sound mind and open your eyes of understanding that stirs your hearts to righteous and proper actions. Such a Resolution should offer fruitfulness, blessings and a journey to new horizons based on where the good way lies and yields rest for your souls.

    Orthodox Delegates promise to act nobly, wisely, respectfully to all Delegates, and prayerfully consider the future generations of the Body of Christ, that will call themselves “Methodist.”

    • Open defiance is not just a tactic for GC 2016; it’s at the local church level as well. Our senior pastor has already declared in several committee meetings that if GC doesn’t vote his way on homosexual “marriage”, i.e. to allow it, he will openly defy GC and perform such marriages anyway. Our bishop has also unfortunately declared she will run interference for any clergy who wish to defy the GC.

  3. Licensed Local Pastor says:

    Here we go, the secularly influenced leaders of the United Methodist Church will make this a dog and pony show the likes of which we have seen before. It is time for an amicable (if that is even possible) separation.

  4. While I’m confident someone with proper authority will file a complaint to resolve this issue, the bigger concern for me is that 75% of the board approved this move. Time may be short for traditionally orthodox pastors – local and ordained – in BWC if this is the typical attitude of leadership

  5. It has long been the goal of the liberal left to undermine all good, moral things in society, so as to make them crumble. The UM church is but one target. They weaken the foundation and eventually it falls. They’ve infiltrated our once sound, bible-based foundation. Yes, I believe these people were deliberately put in place to destroy all good, moral things in society. Of course churches would be their main target. We failed to pay attention when they were worming their way in, almost invisibly, appearing to be bible-believing people, taking seats of power within our institution, undermining our book of Discipline. If you don’t believe in the UM Book of Discipline, you need to go to another denomination that suits you, rather than, with malice (and that’s what it is – malice) try to change a good, decent, bible-believing institution that was around way before you came along. It’s just that simple. Satan is smiling. God help us.

  6. I am more convinced than ever that there needs to be Refiner’s fire; and orthodox members need to be willing to shake the sand off our sandals and begin an amicable separation process from the UMC.

  7. JERRY FENNELL says:

    This is God’s Church!!Remember Sodom and Gomorrah!! The bible is the word of God !! When we stand before Him His answer will be the same then as it is now!!

  8. As a lay member of the UMC, I have no official voice in this. QUESTION: Is there anything under way, officially, to address this wrong?

    • The Renewal and Reform Coalition is proposing legislation at the 2016 General Conference that would close this loophole and restore accountability.

      • Dear Steve;

        Could / Would you offer some details. A Resolution No., or other data as to how it will be introduced. Also a short synopsis of what it is about. Our Delegates can be contacted for support or not to support the loopholes.

        • Thank you for your question, Roger. Petition Number 61039, page 768 of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate, broadens the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” as follows: “a person has entered into a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage with a person of the same sex or gender, communicates in any public setting that they are a practicing homosexual, or 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 bold words are the words to be added. This would provide other ways in which a person would be “self-avowing” that they are a practicing homosexual. Right now, if they refuse to say the right words to the right people, they are not considered “self-avowed,” even though they might be living a homosexual life.

          • Steve,
            Do you know if petitions were recommended for elimination at the Pre-Conference breifing in Portland? I can’t imagine all of the petitions would be discussed during the short amount of time of GC. Do you know of any website/blogs that are tracking trends for GC?
            Thanks,
            Jay

          • Hi, Jay. Thanks for your question. The Pre-Conference briefing did not single out any petitions for either approval or disapproval. Perspectives were presented on several issues, but in those cases, both sides had the opportunity to make presentations. The petitions will be split up among the 12 legislative committees at General Conference, which is how most of them will receive consideration. There may be a few not considered due to lack of time, but the vast majority are considered. The Renewal and Reform Coalition will have a website tracking some of the legislation, but it is not up yet.

            In Christ,
            Tom Lambrecht

  9. I appreciate the legislative attempts to fix the problem, but we are talking about a group of people–including those in leadership–who have absolutely no intention of playing by anybody else’s rules but their own. These are people who have brazenly flaunted the Discipline. I have even seen them turn the Discipline upon itself by claiming that the current statement re marriage keeps them from following a mandate elsewhere in the Discipline to minister to all people. For a Discipline to work, people have to have some sort of common starting point(s)–that is no longer the case within the UMC. There are beliefs written on paper, but in practice The UMC is all over the map!

  10. The Ununited Methodist Church
    The United Methodist Church

    ASAP

  11. please pray for those of us who hold to the BoD and more importantly believe Scripture is clear on this issue – who are clergy in the BWC. Obviously, we are in the minority and have a Bishop who is supportive of our BoOM and the LGBT cause. there is much at stake for us in ministry and for our families.

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