Judicial Council Decisions Search
Decision No. 513
October 30 1982
In Re: Legality of Ordination of Probationer of Same Sex Preference.
Digest of Case
A Probationary member who meets the requirements of the Discipline is eligible for ordination. The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Annual Conference makes inquiry as to the fitness of the candidates for election to full membership, including their educational and personal preparation and the other requirements of the Discipline. These requirements do not refer to sexual orientation. The Annual conference decides whether to ordain eligible persons and admit them to full membership.
Statement of Facts
On June 17, 1982 in a regular business session of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference the following question of law was submitted in writing to the presiding bishop for a ruling under Par. 56 of the Constitution: The legal status of a probationer of same sex preference with reference to our Church's Discipline has not been tested with the Judicial Council. Thus the legality of the ordination of such a probationer remains in question. The bishop's decision was as follows: The 1980 Discipline records no action of the General Conference declaring a person of same sex orientation ineligible to action by an annual conference to full conference membership and elder's orders. The 1980 Discipline clearly assigns the responsibility, power and authority for election of a candidate to full conference membership and to elder's orders to the annual conference upon affirmative vote of the full members and elders of that conference. (See The Constitution Par. 37 Article II; Section III Admission and Continuance Par. 412-427; Section IV Ordination, Par. 429-435; Par. 703.3,4 (Power and Duties of the Annual Conference); 704.5 (Business of the Conference): Par 723.2-duties of the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, esp. d, e, f, g and h. A motion to appeal the bishop's ruling to the Judicial Council under Par. 61.2 of the Constitution was supported by more than the required one-fifth of those present and voting. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2611 of the 1980 Discipline. ANALYSIS The General Conference has determined the qualifications for ordination. They are set forth in Pars. 431 and 435 of the 1980 Discipline and do not refer to sexual preference. We are aware of the statement in Par. 71 F of the Social Principles that ". . . we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." We have also considered the footnote to Par. 404 and the provisions and implications of Par. 906.13. We are sensitive to the issues and concerns involved in this case. Our authority, though, is to interpret the existing law of the church and we find no provision making same sex orientation a disqualification for ordination. Decisions 313 and 318 hold that Par. 15 of the Constitution has placed in the General Conference the power to establish standards, conditions and qualifications for admission to the ministry, a matter of distinct connectional importance, and that where, as is the case here, the General Conference has acted it has thereby pre-empted such authority, so that an Annual Conference may not add to, nor subtract from, from the requirements established by the General Conference. Par. 424 of the 1980 Discipline specifically outlines requirements for admission into full connection in the Annual Conference. There are footnote references to Decisions 157 and 344 which further support the authority of the Annual Conference. In none of these paragraphs is any reference made to a candidate's sexual orientation.
A probationary member who meets the requirements of the Discipline is eligible for ordination. The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Annual Conference makes inquiry as to the fitness of the candidates for election to full membership, including their educational and personal preparation and the other requirements of the Discipline. These requirements do not refer to sexual orientation. The Annual Conference decides whether to ordain eligible persons and admit them to full membership. The bishop's ruling is sustained.