Lake Junaluska Reveal
The Western Jurisdiction bishops, all five active bishops, held a press conference where they pledged to not process complaints against LGBTQ+ clergy or clergy who officiate same-gender weddings.
From their declaration of Safe Harbor:
As of January 1, 2020, when many of the actions of the 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church will take effect, we intend to provide safe harbor for clergy under our care who may be at risk under the new provisions, prohibitions, and punishments.
We intend to exercise our authority as bishops of The United Methodist Church to encourage and protect the full participation of LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, embraced in God’s reign of grace. To do so is essential to the integrity of the Body of Christ, and the unity of the Church.
We are unwilling and unable to exercise the office of bishop in ways that harm, isolate, silence or exclude LGBTQ+ persons as they seek to be seen, understood, welcomed and fully included in the community of the Church.
We do not intend to withhold or challenge ordination based solely on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. We are unwilling to punish clergy who celebrate the marriage of two adults of any gender or sexual orientation seeking the blessing of God and the Church for their covenanted life together.
At the same time, we recognize and will uphold the requirement that LGBTQ+ clergy, with all clergy, “maintain the highest standards of holy living” in their personal and professional relationships.
A great statement. Click here to sign on in support.
West Leading with Grace…
Looking at the resolution itself and you will find rich theological and ecclesiological claims. Some nuggets:
- “We do not believe that The United Methodist Church has the authority or the power to impose limits on the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s beloved LGBTQ+ children.”
- “We are haunted by the actions of the 2019 Special General Conference, which impose new and harmful definitions and restrictions on full participation of LGBTQ+ persons in the Church and abandon robust engagement of scripture to narrow biblical literalism.”
- “Embracing the challenge in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, that “every generation must appropriate creatively the wisdom of the past and seek God in their midst in order to think afresh about God, revelation, sin, redemption, worship, the church, freedom, justice, moral responsibility, and other significant theological concerns”
Amen to especially #2. Any church tradition that can say “well, Scripture saying women should be silent in church is contextual” while saying “the Bible says it, I believe it” on the antigay verses is a church that has lost its grounding.
The Bishops in the West are done playing this retribution and persecution game, and done with how relationships and wedge issues are used to game United Methodism into splintering.
And as a member of the Western Jurisdiction, I’m glad to have bishops that support my LGBTQ+ clergy colleagues and those that have offered marriage services to all of their parishioners.
..While The Right is Gearing Up for a Fight
This is all happening while the South is gearing up for a fight.
In the South Central Jurisdiction, one conservative bishop is holding “a training for church counsels” which means that the bishop is training more church prosecutors to be able to process more complaints and potentially have more trials.
This is the same jurisdiction where Bishop Scott Jones (Bishop of Texas Annual Conference) famously pledged that if 100 clergy officiated same-gender weddings, there would be “100 trials.”
Some bishops are excited about the upcoming prosecution culture to be able to flex their executive strength.
My hope is that Southern Boards of Ordained Ministry and the Conference Relations team keep clergy who are complained against from being forcibly put on leave of absence. And that more Southern United Methodists sign onto the Mainstream UMC moratorium support.
The North…your turn
The northern jurisdictions now have an opportunity to sign onto and follow the lead of the Western Jurisdiction. They lead just as progressive areas as the West and have more population to be able to effect change.
One of their bishops (Bishop John Schol if Greater New Jersey) has already affirmed that he does not intend to process complaints either.
Northern colleges of bishops, the ball is in your court to let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.
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