One Church Plan Critique – Petition #8

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Responsibilities of Elders and Licensed Pastors – Par. 340

This petition is gratuitously redundant as 340.2.a.3.a clearly says, “The decision to perform the ceremony shall be the right and responsibility of the pastor.” What it adds is an excuse for a pastor’s resistance to LGBTQ+ persons rather than pastoral care for the “love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity” of the couple.

Amend ¶ 340 by adding new sub-paragraph after ¶ 340.2

¶ 340.3 a. Each clergy shall have the right to exercise his or her conscience when requested to perform such marriages, unions, or blessing as a matter of his or her individual religious liberty.

  • Since pastor’s already have the right not to perform a marriage (in the ¶ before this new addition), the apparent reason for this petition is to introduce “religious liberty” in yet another place in the Discipline. Again, it claims a right available for the clergy to protect themselves from charges of discrimination and dismisses any expectation of fair play toward LGBTQ+ persons.
  • “Religious liberty” permeates these petitions. It is a code word of the religious-right. This is an example of using this phrase so often that people think they know what it means and they become deaf to its inherent privilege. The number of times it is used also increases the possibility that it will make it in somewhere. That seed can then be used in subsequent General Conferences to spread to every part of the Discipline in the same way the “incompatible” phrase spawned a multitude of other legislation to normalize the harm and hurt that it intentionally caused.
  • Admittedly, church has never been a fair place. We have fought like crazy over mysteries we never will know. We have killed one another over one word in a creed. But to officially enshrine a non-consequential category such as “religious liberty” is exactly pride going before a fall.

b. In conferences where civil law permits a pastor to perform same-sex marriage services, no clergy shall at any time be required or compelled to perform, or prohibited from performing, any marriage, union, or blessing of same-sex couples, or of any couples.

  • Again and again, we hear about same-sex marriage being the stimulus for legislating local discrimination.
  • Unfortunately, if it is not recognized and commented upon every time, it provides an opening for “religious liberty” to give permission for clergy to be so unprofessional that they will abdicate the well-attested markers of marriage (“love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity”) in favor of a personal bias against LGBTQ+ persons and G*D’s good gift of sexuality extended beyond heterosexuality.

c. Clergy who cannot in good conscience continue to serve in a conference based upon that conference’s standards for ordination regarding practicing homosexuals, may seek to transfer under ¶ 347, and shall be supported and assisted in that process. Similarly, clergy who cannot in good conscience continue to serve a particular church based on unresolved disagreements over same-sex marriage as communicated by the pastor and Staff-Parish Relations Committee to the district superintendent, shall be reassigned. All clergy with security of appointment shall continue under appointment by the bishop of the annual conference.

  • What tangled webs eventually get laid down when a first deception is put forward and adopted.
  • Putting the appointment cart before the horse is but one of the outcomes of an initial lie about LGBTQ+ persons—that they are “incompatible” with Jesus.
  • This petition commits The United Methodist Church to use variations within human sexuality to sort clergy, congregations, and conferences into homogenous and competing units—each with their own practice of acceptance or rejection of LGBTQ+ persons.
  • The United Methodist Church so desires this outcome that it will even pay for people to be moved around so they can be comforted in a setting of like-minds/hearts. The only question in quadrennia to come is what other issues will arise for which this is the blueprint of how to privilege the most dogmatic amongst us.

This petition about responsibilities of the clergy turns out to be the reverse—the responsibility of The United Methodist Church is to take care of the conscience of its clergy by moving them where they want to go.

There is no accountability to the denomination to follow the General Rule to “first, do no harm.” All that is needed is a statement that they don’t agree with the “stance” of their local situation, and off they go. A bruised doctrinal bone is all that is needed to trigger a move to greener pastures.

Though begun in a neutral tone, this petition is really about those who “do not condone” LGBTQ+ persons in marriage or as ordainable.

 

One Church Plan Critique – #6 and #7

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Ministry of Deacons and an Elder – Par. 329 and 224

These two petitions (6 & 7) are the same petition. In one case they are directed toward Deacons and in the other toward Elders. In both cases, they continue the theme already heard—a built-in excuse not to treat LGBTQ+ persons with the same pastoral care as heterosexual persons.

Amend ¶ 329 by adding new sub-paragraph after ¶ 329.3

¶ 329.4 In conferences where civil law permits a pastor to perform a same-sex marriage service, no deacon in full connection shall at any time be required or compelled to perform, or prohibited from performing, any marriage, union, or blessing of same-sex couples, or of any couples. Each deacon shall have the right to exercise his or her conscience to refuse or agree when requested to perform any marriages, unions, or blessing as a matter of his or her individual religious liberty.

and

Amend ¶ 334 by adding new sub-paragraph after ¶ 334.5

¶ 334.6. In conferences where civil law permits a pastor to perform same-sex marriage services, no elder shall at any time be required or compelled to perform, or prohibited from performing, any marriage, union, or blessing of same-sex couples, or of any couples. Each elder shall have the right to exercise his or her conscience to refuse or agree when requested to perform such marriages, unions, or blessing as a matter of his or her individual religious liberty.

  • The Discipline is clear that clergy have the authority to decide whether or not to officiate at a wedding (¶340.2.a.3.a). This addition authorizes a local option for discrimination under the disguise of “religious liberty”.
  • While there are expectations of pre-marital counseling and determining the fitness of those coming to be married, it must be admitted that weddings are more of a social and state function than religious. The Discipline has an interesting parenthetical statement about pastors and marriage in ¶316. Among a pastor’s duties is the “…service of marriage (where state laws allow)….” This highlights that marriage is less religious/doctrinal and more a social or state concern.
  • I would contend that these petitions are mislocated. ¶¶329 and 334 are about clergy voting, holding office in an annual conference, professional competency, and relationship to one another. Being able to decide about officiating at a marriage on any ground other than treating every couple on the same basis goes beyond the scope of these paragraphs.
  • Again, the “religious liberty” phrase turns up to defend those in a pastoral role who would establish a pocket of discrimination. There is no similar concern given for LGBTQ+ persons who will have the church’s back turned to them one more time. It gives permission to use orientation as a reason not to officiate.
  • With this understanding of what is behind the petitions, no paragraph can honestly hold them.
  • Delegates will have the opportunity to consider and project where such permission-giving will lead by General Conference 2024. Hopefully, they will then vote “No” when these petitions come to the floor for a vote.