By Thomas A. Lambrecht
Three years after the United Methodist Council of Bishops declared that ordinations conducted by Church Within A Church (CWAC) have “no official status,” two more ceremonies resembling ordination rites were conducted by CWAC on October 23 at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona.
According to a CWAC press release, DeLyn Celec was discontinued from the United Methodist ordination process when she answered “yes” when asked if she was in a civil union with her partner.
“I am called to Extraordinary Ordination with the Church Within A Church Movement,” Celec said. “Its distinctively Wesleyan heritage, and commitment to ending oppressions of all types, makes it feel like my Church.” Celec will continue serving as Worship Arts Coordinator at United Methodist-related Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.
Robyn Morrison stopped her United Methodist ordination process when her lesbian daughter asked her why she would want to be ordained in a denomination that would not allow her to perform the wedding of her own daughter.
“I feel called to sacramental ministry within the Methodist tradition,” said Morrison. “Sadly, exclusion in the United Methodist Church continues to harm me, my beloved daughter and my beloved friends, who are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual.”
United Methodist ordained elders participated in and led the ordination service. The preacher for the service was the Rev. I. Malik Saafir, senior pastor of Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church and lead consultant for the Janus Institute For Justice, LLC, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Leading the ordination ceremony was the Rev. Greg Dell, retired member of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference known for his 1999 conviction and suspension for officiating at the union of two gay men; the Rev. Susan Morrison, retired and currently teaching at Boston University School of Theology; and the Rev. Dr. Traci West, Professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School (Madison, NJ).
Additionally, the worship was led by Mark Miller, the co-worship leader at the 2008 General Conference.
Three years ago, the UM Council of Bishops issued a public statement that the ceremony in which two ordinations were conducted by CWAC “was not approved by any United Methodist annual conference, board of ordained ministry or cabinet” and that the ordinations had “no effect within The United Methodist Church.”
Good News believes that this “extraordinary ordination” was a sign that proponents of the acceptance of homosexual behavior are prepared to go outside The United Methodist Church to get their way. The fact that four United Methodist ordained elders led this event signifies how broken our church really is.
The Church Within A Church Movement is actually an incipient new denomination. It offers to credential pastors, holds regular training and support meetings, and sponsors new church plants by its ministers. While evangelicals have been accused of preparing to start a new Methodist denomination for years, CWAC has already done so, to little fanfare and no objection from those concerned with the unity of The United Methodist Church.
It seems that the CWAC would be the perfect place for those clergy and congregations who can no longer live within the United Methodist covenant.
By Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president of Good News.