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Decision No. 708

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April 28 1994
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the California-Pacific Conference Concerning Report of Board of Ordained Ministry Which Does Not Define "Self-Avowed Practicing Homosexual."

Digest of Case

This matter is before the Judicial Council arising out of the request for a decision of law by the presiding bishop of the California-Pacific Conference on June 16, 1993. In that session, a member of the Conference submitted the following question: 1. Does the passage of Recommendations #1 of the Board of Ministry which includes the 2 paragraphs of the item #4 (found on page 2, #343.1 of the Clergy Session agenda for Cal-Pac Annual Conf., 1993) in accordance with the Discipline of the United Methodist Church? (sic) Dissenting Opinion Notwithstanding differing views and theological beliefs, the Judicial Council stated in Decision 544 that it is within the authority of the General Conference to enact legislation which declares that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Par. 402.2 of the Discipline . While situations may exist which require some definition, such would not be the case in the resolution which is the subject of Bishop Sano's ruling which has as its premise "someone were to define himself or herself a self-avowed practicing homosexual." What better determination can there be other than that of the person himself/herself. Conceivably, it could be argued that the prohibition applies only in the situation wherein a person defines himself or herself a self-avowed practicing homosexual. For these reasons I am unable to vote to affirm any ruling which allows the opportunity for circumvention of the prohibition in Par. 402.2 of the Discipline wherein the premise is stated in the absolute as "someone were to define himself or herself a self-avowed practicing homosexual." Wesley Bailey The request for a decision referred to the following recommendation from the Board of Ordained Ministry: The Board of Ordained Ministry deliberated over the invitation to provide a definition of "self-avowed practicing homosexual." After careful thought and discussion, the Board of Ordained Ministry has decided not to develop a definition for these words. If someone were to define himself or herself as a "self-avowed practicing homosexual," the appropriate bodies in the decision making processes would make a decision regarding the recommendation for ordination or continuance as an ordained clergy, based on the "Standards for Ordained Ministry" of the Book of Discipline, par. 403. The presiding bishop ruled that the recommendation of the Board of Ordained Ministry did not violate the Discipline directly or explicitly. The bishop found it consistent with Judicial Council Decision 544 and stated as follows: It states, for example, that an Annual Conference "cannot reduce nor avoid stipulations established by the General Conference which must be met by the church's ministry everywhere" and that an Annual Conference "does not have the authority to legislate in contradiction to a General Conference mandate or requirement." The Conference will also be reminded of the comments in the Concurring Opinion to Decision 544. There it states that "the decision in this matter does not attempt to define the term "self-avowed practicing homosexual" nor does it limit the judgment to be exercised by an annual conference as to its understanding of the term and its application of the term in a specific case. Based on the Judicial Council's understanding that the reference to Par. 403 in the Board of Ordained Ministry's recommendation is meant to include all criteria and standards for ordination as delineated in the Discipline, we find the bishop's decision consistent with Decisions 544 and 702. The decision is affirmed.

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