Baltimore-Washington Defies Judicial Council

By Thomas Lambrecht –

In response to six different annual conference boards of ordained ministry voting in 2016 not to comply with the Book of Discipline’s qualifications for ministry in evaluating candidates, the Judicial Council ruled that “The Board’s examination must include all paragraphs relevant to election of pastoral ministry, including those provisions set forth in paragraphs that deal with issues of race, gender, sexuality, integrity, indebtedness, etc. ¶¶ 304.2, 305, 306, 310.” In other words, the board of ordained ministry cannot ignore requirements it disagrees with.

The Judicial Council further ruled, “The Board can only legally recommend to the Clergy Session a candidate for whom they have conducted a thorough examination and who has met the disciplinary standards for fitness.”

Now, one of those six original non-compliant annual conference boards has voted to adopt a policy that intentionally disobeys not only the Book of Discipline, but the Judicial Council ruling. Rather than await the outcome of the 2019 special called General Conference, Baltimore-Washington is conducting itself as a break-off annual conference from the rest of the global United Methodist Church.

In a statement issued last week, the board announced that it had adopted the policy recommendation last October and used it to evaluate its current crop of candidates for ministry.

The policy states, “We will not consider or evaluate sexual orientation or gender identity nor see them to be sufficient reasons to deny a candidate’s ability to live up to our United Methodist standards. We will utilize our denomination’s expectation of faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness within our examination and expect not only high moral standards but also a strong sense of self-awareness about one’s relational life.” (One wonders what exactly those “high moral standards” are, if Baltimore-Washington no longer operates by the moral standards set by General Conference in obedience to Scripture.)

Despite the fact that Baltimore-Washington has jettisoned the denomination’s ordination standards, it is noteworthy that the board still wants to maintain the standard of “faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness.” However, since same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, the refusal to consider sexual orientation or gender identity means that persons in a same-sex marriage would be eligible for ordained ministry in the board’s eyes. Transgender candidates would also be welcome under these standards. Given the Judicial Council rulings, this policy calls into question whether any of the candidates recommended by the board at the upcoming annual conference can legally be considered or voted on.

The board acknowledges that it is knowingly violating the provisions of the Discipline and the Judicial Council rulings. Their statement reads, “We write in response to these rulings’ specific mandate to not ignore in the inquiry a candidate’s self-disclosure of sexual orientation. We respectfully disagree with these rulings, acknowledging that the following policy is not compliant with the Book of Discipline.”

This action points once again to the primary problem that is causing the crisis within United Methodism today. That problem is the unwillingness of members, clergy, and bishops to live within the boundaries set by General Conference for the whole church. This intentional defiance has torn the covenant that binds United Methodists together and generates mistrust and cynicism toward the institutional church.

The Rev. Amy McCullough, who co-chaired the board task force that developed the policy, is quoted as saying, “My hope is that this feels respectful. We all want the best for this Church that we love.” However, this policy does feel disrespectful. It disrespects the collegial work of the General Conference, the only body that has the authority to speak for the whole United Methodist Church. And it disrespects the clear and reasonable decisions of the Judicial Council in upholding what the Discipline requires. It also disrespects all of us who took vows to live by our Discipline and have been faithful to those vows, even when we disagree with some of its requirements.

A church that fails to live by its covenants is no longer an authentic church. It has become factions that live by their own lights and disregard the health of the whole body for the sake of advancing their views.

It has become painfully obvious since 2016 that those promoting the affirmation of LGBT practices are not willing to live together in a church that disallows those practices. Rather than take the route of integrity and withdraw from a church they cannot adhere to, they tear apart the unity of the church by their continuing and escalating disobedience.

The only faithful way forward is some form of separation that acknowledges that reality and allows the different factions to go their own way. We gain nothing by continuing to try to hold together members and congregations that cannot live in the same church by the same understandings of faith and moral teachings. In their zeal to force the church to change, many progressives have instead sealed the fate of The United Methodist Church to no longer be a “united” body, but destined for separation.

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and vice president of Good News.

Clarification: It should be noted that current church law does not prohibit transgender persons from being licensed, commissioned, or ordained as clergy. I am assuming that most conservative annual conferences would not be open to transgender persons serving in this way. The policy statement from Baltimore-Washington makes it sound like they are more explicitly welcoming transgender persons as ministry candidates.

Comments

  1. Progressives are the ONLY ones in a defiant, separation mode. Yet, they refuse to go their separate way. They are rewriting all the rules of passive aggressiveness with one goal —- to liberalize the church at all costs. If they must destroy the church in the process, so be it. Yet, the Rev states, “we all want the best for this Church that we love”.

    The UMC must come to its senses, put an end to this insanity at General Conference in St Louis, and make those already functioning as a separate church official. Furthermore, there can be no real church, covenant or otherwise, operating under some fictitious local option or three branch church structure except a false one divided against itself.

  2. Gary Bebop says:

    Like ancient Israel, evangelicals are camped at Goshen and waiting for marching orders. Lead us out, Lord.

  3. James Wilson says:

    If this dissention is allowed to go without repercussions the United Methodist Church. is DONE.A written statement that they will not adhere to the dicipline should be delt with swiftly and severely. That’s like a child telling a parent the aren’t goig to do what they are told.

  4. Flout Book of Discipline.
    Flout Judicial Council ruling.
    Preemptively flout 2019 GC.
    Saul didn’t wait for Samuel either. That didn’t work out to well.
    And the bishops are OK with this?

    • Tim, the Bishops are now the ring leaders in this. They not only refuse to enforce the BOD, they have actively violated it and their ordination vows. It is now obvious that the majority of bishops intend to change the church at any cost.

      • Stop paying their salaries until they comply with the discipline as they said they would when they were ordained. We should not be paying them to destroy the United Methodist denomination which is what they are doing.

  5. If these Churches don’t want to follow the standards that the United Methodist Church has set then they should not be called an United Methodist Church. Also if a person is voted or appointed to a positon that goes against the standards/rules of the denomination then that person should be removed from that position. A Christian denomination has a responsibility to uphold and stand for Biblical truths and standards. The devil is definitely gaining ground in this battle and we need to continue to pray for all denominations to stand strong It is said “Divide and conquer”!

  6. Gary Bebop says:

    I sympathize with all the expressions of angst, but the reality is that unless evangelicals are willing to strap on the whole armor of God and contend for scriptural holiness, these remonstrations will go nowhere. Tom has signaled that disobedience has rent the church. Now he must point to the way forward.

  7. Tom has served on the Commission on A Way Forward, so he has seen this whole process play out from the inside. He has watched the Bishops make the choices they’ve made to present to GC19, none of which are acceptable to evangelicals/conservatives/orthodox Wesleyans.

    After all that, he has clearly laid out where we’re at – read his last paragraph again:

    “The only faithful way forward is some form of separation that acknowledges that reality and allows the different factions to go their own way. We gain nothing by continuing to try to hold together members and congregations that cannot live in the same church by the same understandings of faith and moral teachings. In their zeal to force the church to change, many progressives have instead sealed the fate of The United Methodist Church to no longer be a “united” body, but destined for separation.”

    • Gary Bebop says:

      It’s abundantly clear “where we are,” but what’s unclear is the way forward. Traditionalists are longing for Good News and its allies to declare their support for a vision, to do more than ruminate about the options and the latest offenses. “Show us the plan, and we’ll show you the money.” Progressives are already busily holding indoctrinating talks in support of their vision.

      • Gary, I think the vision was laid out at the Chicago meeting of the WCA a couple years ago.

        Unlike the progressives, who will continue to disobey the BOD, we who are biblical and faithful (1) align ourselves with the BOD, therefore we are not “protesting” anything our church currently teaches, and (2) we are also trying to be faithful to allow the system (General Conference) to work and resolve this issue “by the book” before the WCA or Good News or anyone else announces a vision or plan or action to move forward.

        It is difficult when we are the ones who are obedient/faithful to the scriptures and the BOD, because it seems as though we’re not doing anything. But we will*, if the leadership of the church passes a plan that is in clear violation of scripture and the BOD where it is faithful to scripture.

        *When I write “But we will” above, I am not presuming to speak for the WCA (of which I am not yet a member) or Good News; I am speaking of evangelical/conservative/orthodox Wesleyans in general. We will make the decision to separate or find another way to remain faithful to scripture, and I assume that will be under a large banner headed by or organized by the WCA, etc.

    • I continue to beat my head against this wall —- progressives are the ONLY ones on a separation path. In certain places, they have essentially separated from the UMC already de facto. Why not make their separation OFFICIAL and save the global UMC? I am simply unable to understand the rationale of rewarding defiance, disobedience, lawlessness, and outright contempt for the UMC.

      • William, see my comments to Gary, directly above. I understand your frustration, and share it with you; I’m sick of all this nonsense and immature behavior by the left, but I’m willing to trust God and trust General Conference to move this forward (or frustrate the Bishops and the progressives plans to try to change things).

        If there is an outcome that does not lead to a clear path for the two sides to go their own desired directions unencumbered by the other, there are plenty of people ready to take action to make that happen (see the final paragraph of Tom Lambrecht’s most recent article on this webpage.)

  8. Please excuse my naive question; but referring to our scriptures:
    1Co 5:6 “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
    1Co 5:7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
    1Co 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
    1Co 5:9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.
    1Co 5:10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
    1Co 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
    1Co 5:12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
    1Co 5:13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.” nkjv’
    So I humbly ask: why does not the General Assembly excise this leaven, and remove the offenders from the church? Why is the “can” being kicked down the road into 2019?

    • P. Perry says:

      Amen.
      The dissenters are sincere in their own interpretation of scripture and there is much they like about the United Methodist Church even though they do not believe all that is in our Discipline. While they are delaying any resolution they can persuade others who agree with them to join the Methodist Church so when the division finally comes they will be “entitled” to more of the assets of the denomination.
      Many of those who are in a position to be the “can kickers” are receiving good salaries from the denomination they are destroying.

  9. First, there must be a delegate vote on the place of the BIBLE at this conference. For a Holy Spirit inspired outcome, the Bible must be made the centerpiece of this meeting. It will be up to the traditional/orthodox leaders to make this happen. In a very first vote(s), the delegates must decide what the Bible, not the secular culture, says about Christian marriage and sexual immorality. It is decision time as to how the UMC will use the Holy Bible going forward since the asunder of interpretations over these last decades have failed the church and led to the present schism. From that initial vote, it will then be clear as to what must be voted on next with relation to the Book of Discipline.

    • The Bishops are trying to remove us from our scriptural base. At a recent clergy meeting a rep from our AC was trying to explain what contextual meant. After some discussion it became clear that what it really means that we will determine our theology by the beliefs of the society around us. Instead of basing our theology on the scriptures we are now going to base them on the beliefs of society. In doing so we will no longer be a religion who bases their theology on the teachings of their God, instead we will base our theology on the teachings of the intellectuals at the top of the power structure and society in general. We were also told that when we had discussions on the subject that we should not try to change anyone;s position. I thought as a clergy I was supposed to try and convince people to change their lives and become a disciple of Christ. Now I find I am to be the leader of a “i’m Ok, Your Ok”, social action club.

      • Scott,
        The one-sided slant and content of this article supports your conclusion regarding your recent meeting. Are we seeing the beginnings of a sales campaign for the bishops’ new 2019 contextualmobile? Maintaining unity for the sake of mission? There’s talk of setting aside our theological differences (code for setting aside the Bible) for the sake of unity. How do these people propose that the UMC would magically achieves this unity by adopting two diametrically opposed understandings of the Bible? Furthermore, how do they then propose this church go forth in mission preaching two opposite Biblical messages — repentance for sin on the one hand and preaching the celebration sin on the other?

        http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/hitting-the-road-for-way-forward

  10. Sin is sin, period. Those promoting sin in the church, including Bishops, Pastors, and congregations, need to have their credentials pulled from our denomination. Let them form their own denomination. This is where the rubber meets the road. True Christians must take a stand NOW and not fight for the BOD or our denomination, but fight for the integrity of Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, The Bible. I am as stirred up as a hornet’s nest. I am ready to vote now to send them packing. Just think of the money we are wasting deciding whether we ought to promote sin in the pulpit and the church. Isn’t there more useful ways to spend this money?

  11. Harold Gielow says:

    I tried to convince my charge to take the issue to civil court to get a declaratory judgement that there was a breach of trust. They decided not to go down that route. I stopped looking into this due to their decision and, in my limited legal opinion, the fact that we had exceeded the statute if limitations in Virginia for breach litigation. There was a clear, unambiguous option for such action until April, the anniversary of the JC decision that the consecration of Oliveto was an act of the church and contrary to the discipline. There may still be a case if one can argue that the precipitating event was later. Frankly, I was surprised someone didn’t take this path. That said, I am feeling somewhat confident that the general conference will affirm the traditional view. As the COBs is clearly liberal in majority, I am not sure where such an affirmation will take us, leadership clearly unwilling to enforce the discipline as it stands. Can the GC take action against the COBs for not enforcing the discipline? Since we have a called GC, what are conservatives doing to use it to reign in the COBs?

  12. Harold Gielow says:

    In regards last comment: “Adds language to Paragraph 50 of the UMC Book of Discipline regarding how the Council of Bishops holds its individual members accountable for their work. As ratified, the amendment adds the following sentence to the end of Paragraph 50: “These provisions shall not preclude that adoption by the General Conference of provisions for the Council of Bishops to hold its individual members accountable for their work, both as general superintendents and as presidents and residents in episcopal areas.” (Approved).” Can not this be useful at the 2019 called GC? Given that the subject of the called GC relates to a way forward on issues of human sexuality, breaches of discipline in this regard, and non enforcement of same, should be permitted subjects for consideration. To ensure this, upcoming JC deliberations should include this question. Who is working on this?

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