Complaint Dismissed Against Openly Gay Clergywoman in Iowa

BlaedelBy Walter Fenton-

Bishop Julius Trimble has dismissed a complaint filed against a United Methodist clergywoman who announced during a plenary session of the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference, “I am a self-avowed practicing homosexual. Or in my language, I am out, queer, partnered, clergy.”

The Rev. Anna Blaedel, a campus minister at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, made her announcement during a  moment of personal privilege during a June 4 plenary session. Shortly after her address, three of her clergy colleagues prepared a complaint against her and submitted it to Trimble.

Trimble informed the complainants on the second to last day of his tenure as bishop of the Iowa Episcopal Area that he was dismissing their charge. As of September 1, Trimble is now the presiding bishop of the Indiana Episcopal Area.

Bishop Julius Trimble

Bishop Julius Trimble

Two of the three complainants in the case, the Revs. Craig Peters and Ben Blanchard, were only mildly surprised by Trimble’s decision. They noted that other bishops are also trying to quietly resolve cases related to the church’s sexual ethics and teachings on marriage, and that the resolutions often allow clergy members to keep their ministerial credentials and remain under appointment with no blemish on their service record.

[In two separate pieces released this week (HERE and HERE), United Methodist News Services’ Heather Hahn reports on two similar cases.]

But Peters and Blanchard also pointed out their laity are mystified by a system that allows clergy to openly defy its standards and then suffer no consequences for their defiance.

In order to dismiss a complaint a bishop needs the consent of his or her cabinet (i.e., the district superintendents serving the annual conference). According to Peters, Trimble told him that he had the “general consent” of his eight cabinet members, but he also said the bishop would not say whether that meant all eight approved his decision or just a simple majority of them.

The Book of Discipline requires a bishop to put in writing for the complainants the reasons why he or she has decided to dismiss a complaint. Both Peters and Blanchard report they have received no such statement from Trimble.

Bishops are also charged with giving “due regard to the interests and needs of the complainants” when deciding to dismiss their complaint. Both Peters and Blanchard said Trimble failed to do so. They believed they were acting as representatives of a larger body of clergy and laity in their annual conference who are concerned about integrity and accountability with respect to the UM Church’s sexual ethics and teachings on same sex marriage.

“I believe the bishop was hoping for a swift and quiet just resolution,” said Blanchard. “But when it became apparent that would not happen he dismissed it as an alternate way of keeping it quiet.” To date, Trimble has not made a public statement regarding his actions, and the Iowa Annual Conference Communications Office is either unaware of Trimble’s decision or has decided not to report on the matter.

In an open letter to “Friends and Colleagues” regarding Trimble’s decision, Peters said he interpreted the bishop’s decision as follows: “We find ourselves in an unprecedented ‘time of transition.’ … We must be willing to offer grace to one another, who for conscience sake can no longer follow the Book of Discipline. This evidently would include those who, for conscience sake, feel they can no longer, with integrity, pay their church apportionments.”

Blaedel remains at her appointment at the University of Iowa Wesley Center, and newly elected Bishop Laurie Haller is now presiding over the Iowa Episcopal Area.

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergy person and an analyst for Good News.

Comments

  1. If this is an early indication of our new Bishop’s stance on this then I say he needs to understand there will be consequences!

  2. Though I believe that we should love all people and minister to all in the hope that we bring them to Christ, I believe it is not in accordance to the bible that a person who is a practicing homosexual should be in a position of influence such as a minister. I would be concerned of how the children would be influenced by them. God has very explicit instructions on the matter and I feel it’s going against those instructions.

  3. Another example of a structure open to abuse with no recourse, that is, the rganizational structure of the UMC. Can a civil judge dismiss charges against a law breaker who has announced his/her breaking of the law as well as his/her intent to continue breaking said law without facing impeachment charges? If this minister can have this complaint dismissed, a blatant violation of church law, then how can this Bishop hold anyone under his jurisdiction accountable for ANY violation of the BOD?

  4. Licensed Local Pastor says

    Do Bishop’s really think that there will be no consequences for actions like this? The Bishop’s took vows at their consecrations, were they lying to the laity and God? When Bishop’s take actions like this they undermine the connection and their own integrity as “leaders” or “shepherds”. It seems the Bishop’s who dismiss these complaints are more worried about the opinions of the world than vows made before God. Blind guides leading the blind.

  5. Rev. Andrew Scott says

    There was a time when arguments similar to many of these in the article and the comments against clergy from the LGBTQI community were used against female clergy and against integration of the church. As we continue to repeat history I wonder how many UM’s will look to our history to see the long trend of the church participating in oppression and marginalization, instead of living into our calling to embrace and welcome the marginalized as beloved children of God who have received the same gift of Grace as the rest of us. In the beginning the Methodist movement was one of the margins, yet now as we find ourselves in the center it seems we are more concerned about holding onto what we think is ours, and less concerned about listening for the calling of God.

    • Rev Scott – Have you ever counseled or advised persons who are feeling trapped in their gay lifestyle? Many such persons see the only way out to be suicide! It happens more than most persons would believe. I am convinced that the body of Christ must continue to hold out the saving power of Jesus as the best hope for such persons, or to anyone who is a slave to sin, and we cannot do so if we assume Jesus’ role as judge of our behavior, and thereby deny the truth of God’s word. Indeed, “holding on to what we think is ours” – namely, the judgmental position of thinking our tolerance of sin somehow makes us good people – DOES in fact make us “less concerned about listening for the calling of God.”

    • Rev. Scott,

      Respectfully, the love of God does not always manifest itself in approval. As a clergyman, you must be aware of numerous times that God in scripture, in spite of abhorrent and sinful behavior, continued to express His love to man. Indeed, we are called as Christians to love all; however, this call to love does not include a call to allow those who are clearly and demonstrably in sinful circumstances to minister to those who are called to holiness! If you perceive traditional UM’s to be out of step with societal trends and changes, you bless us by standing us alongside a changeless God. When the UM church begins to ally itself with sin in order to be perceived as contemporary, then I stand with a changeless God and His changeless Word. Acceptance of LGBTQI ministers and bishops is not the scriptural evolution of the church; rather, it is the selling out of scriptural edits and values in order to court the approval of society. You may stand with progressive UM’s; I will stand on God’s word!

  6. Licensed Local Pastor says

    Is this the new “just resolution” trend for our Bishops?
    Big tent Methodism coming to the Michigan conference check out this link..https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-TPcO6vZ79Ro/V9dRRwmDm4I/AAAAAAAAAEU/mdB7NgiIyjQoTM45YNim_6Q4X7Sguut5ACLcB/s1600/2nd%2Bpage%2Bof%2BJust%2BResolution.jpg

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.