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The United Methodist Church (UMC) & homosexuality

Activity by various UMC groups:
From year 2000 to 2005

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See also: Decisions from the year 1996 to 1999

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Year 2000:

  • The Sacramento 95 or 96 or 67 or 69: On 2000-FEB-11, a UMC investigating committee decided to not try the ministers who had jointly conducted a lesbian union service in 1999-JAN-16. The exact number of ministers involved varies by news source. Bishop Melvin Talbert of the California-Nevada Conference said: "No further steps or action will be taken or pursued" against the ministers. He added: "We may never reach agreement on this issue." According to ReligionToday: "The investigating committee heard testimony from church experts on Scripture, tradition, ethics, experience, and reason before reaching its decision." 1 James Heidinger, the head of the Evangelical Good News movement, said that he and his conservative colleagues were "stunned and angered" by the decision.

  • Conservative groups merge: Three conservative renewal movements within the UMC (Good News, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the Confessing Movement), have formed a coalition called Coalition for United Methodist Accountability (CUMA). It is a coalition of "laity and clergy who have come together to seek doctrinal, fiscal, and procedural accountability in the life of the United Methodist Church." According to Newsroom, their goal is to "help steer the church back to its doctrinal roots." On 2000-NOV-16, the leaders issued a statement: "We believe the witness and ministry of our church is being undermined by increasing disobedience to church doctrine and standards, neglect of due process, and unfair administration on the part of some bishops and district superintendents."
     
  • Legal same-sex unions: ReligionToday reported on 2000-DEC-7 that Pastor Gregory Dell of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago IL believes that he has found a method of conducting same-sex unions within church rules. He has the couple exchange vows at a ceremony outside the church. Then they return to the church to celebrate their unions at a second service.

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2001:

  • Trial of gay pastor: On 2001-JUN-15, The Rev. Mark Edward Williams of Woodland Park United Methodist Church revealed to clergy and lay members of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference that he was gay. On 2001-DEC-18, the Associated Press reported that Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle, WA, had initiated a formal complaint before a denomination court. Williams commented: "I was expecting it for many months, but at the same time it sort of felt like being hit in the stomach when it actually happened." AP stated that "The bishop and an investigation committee will determine whether there are grounds for a church trial, which could bring suspension or expulsion." 3,4

  • Funding of dialog: According to a United Methodist News Service report of APR-23, the The United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns have requested $200,000 from the General Council on Ministries for a "series of dialogues on homosexuality and church unity." 5

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2002:

  • Survey of GLBT UMC members: On 2002-APR-5, the Reconciling Ministries Network issued a "flashnet" news release about Jamie B. Stroud, a clinical sexologist and a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS) in San Francisco. She created a new web site where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) United Methodist individuals can anonymously participate in a research project. The survey is intended to examine why LGBT United Methodists remain loyal to and/or affiliated with the United Methodist Church in spite of the denomination’s Social Principles' assertion that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and stance that disallows full participation in the life of the denomination for those persons. 6 Her survey is still active today. 7

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2005:

  • Judicial Council ruling concerning Ref. Edward H. Johnson: During 2005-JUN, clergy of the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC voted to place the Rev. Edward H. Johnson, senior pastor of the South Hill [VA] United Methodist Church on involuntary leave. This was triggered by his refusal to receive a homosexual male into membership. He said that the man would neither repent nor seek to live a different lifestyle.

    In October, the Judicial Council'S decision #1032 decided that UMC pastors have the authority to decide who is acceptable as a church member. They ruled:
    "the pastor in charge of a United Methodist Church or charge is solely responsible for making the determination of a person's readiness to receive the vows of membership."
    According to the Reconciling Ministries Network Digest:
    "The word 'solely' has especially generated emotionally and politically charged conversations throughout the church about pastoral authority and the power of United Methodist bishops. The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the heated debate highlights the need for focused, careful and continuing dialogue about the theological, ecclesial and pastoral implications of the council's action. "The church craves clarity about how to understand and live out its mission that is at once coherent and compelling for an unbelieving world," said Del Pino. "Judicial Council 1032 has created a defining moment in the life of people called United Methodists." Florida Conference Bishop Timothy Whitaker said reactions to the ruling have exposed "weaknesses in the life of our church" and declared that "we have much work to do in examining and renewing our discipline of membership in the church."

    The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, which oversees the church's licensed and ordained leadership held a conference on 2007-FEB-15/16. Pastors, bishops, theologians, seminary deans and denominational staff members met to discuss the matter. 8

  • Statement of inclusivity by Methodists of color: On SEP-04, at Lake Junaluska, NC, a group of Asian American, African American, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander Methodists issued a statement promoting inclusiveness. It said, in part:

    "...we raise our voices lest the mistakes of the past be repeated in the present. We are reminded that at not so long ago African Americans were denied entry into this historic site at the heart of Methodism and based on the remembrance of this tragic legacy, we speak out today so that no other individuals or groups will be similarly denied hospitality at Christ's holy table of fellowship."

    "As UMOC, we are mindful that then as now, more conservative voices from within this Church that we love have sought to deny access and entry to fellow Christians and United Methodists. And we are concerned that then as now acts of inhospitality have opened the door to expressions of extremism and hatred. In particular, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and of other misguided individuals to intimidate and threaten this gathering of faithful United Methodists. Again, as UMOC, we are mindful of the campaign of brutality, violence and terror that the KKK has waged from the past down to the immediate present against African Americans, new immigrants, Catholics, Jews, people of differing political perspectives, the federal government, and many, many others."

    "Now, in recent weeks, the KKK has made it abundantly clear that they have expanded their circle of hatred and terror to include Reconciling United Methodists, particularly those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people of faith." 9,10

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This topic continues with groups' decisions from the year 2006 to now

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. ReligionToday news summary, 2000-FEB-15.
  2. Newsroom is a service of Worldwide Newsroom Inc. Their articles are written by "a network of journalists, scholars and other professional contacts in country." You can subscribe to their service from their website at http://www.newsroom.org/ 
  3. Tim Tanton, "Gay Seattle pastor gets church assignment, not appointment," United Methodist News Service, 2001-JUN-29, at: http://umns.umc.org/01/june/297.htm
  4. "Complaint Filed Against Gay Pastor," Associated Press, 2001-DEC-18, at: http://news.findlaw.com/ap_stories/other/
  5. "The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group," 2001-MAY at: http://www.iwgonline.org/ktf/archive/2001/may/
  6. Reconciling Ministries Network, Flashnet news release, 2002-APR-5. Their web site is at: http://www.RMNetwork.org
  7. "Welcome to G.U.M. Research," at: http://www.gumresearch.net/
  8. "GBHEM consultation on the implications of 1032," The Reconciling Ministries Network Digest, 2007-MAR-01.
  9. "UMOC Statement from Lake Junaluska," The Reconciling Ministries Network Digest, 2005-SEP-22.
  10. The UMOC web site is at: http://rmnetwork.org/umoc/

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Copyright 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2010-JUN-06
Author: B.A. Robinson
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