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Decision No. 722

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October 28 1994
In Re: Legality of a Resolution Defining "Self-Avowed Practicing Homosexual."

Digest of Case

The bishop's decision is reversed and the West Virginia Annual Conference resolution defining self-avowed, practicing homosexual is illegal.

Statement of Facts

During the 1994 session of the West Virginia Annual Conference, a written request for a decision of law was made of the presiding bishop, stating: Request that the Bishop rule the action of the Annual Conference [in adopting the definition that 'A self-avowed practicing homosexual is a person who engages in sexual acts with a person or persons of the same sex, which are either witnessed or openly acknowledged'] inconsistent with Church law, and thus, null and void. The bishop ruled: The action of the Annual Conference in adopting a resolution called 'Self-Avowed practicing homosexual' which states 'a self-avowed practicing homosexual is a person who engages in sexual acts with a person or persons of the same sex, which are either witnessed or openly acknowledged' is in order. The adopted definition was presented by the United Methodist Council of Bishops on January 14, 1994 in response to Decision 702. Decision 702 states that: It is clear that either the General Conference or the Annual Conference must define for their own use, the words 'self-avowed practicing homosexual.' It might be observed that the latter may not be very successful unless there is a considerable degree of uniformity. The minister seeking the episcopal ruling argues that the adopted resolution "seeks to define a person by sexual acts, when definition is primarily through attraction." Additionally, he argues that the word "witnessed" is without corresponding word or phrase in the Discipline. Par. 402.2 of the Discipline addresses the practice of homosexuality, that is to say, acts, not the state of being a homosexual person. Therefore, the Annual Conference is correct in speaking in terms of "acts," not "being" or "attraction." The word "witness" refers to seeing something happen or giving evidence or testimony. A third person's evidence or testimony about acts which the third person has seen is not equivalent to self-avowal on the part of a person who admits to the practice. Furthermore, an adequate definition of "self-avowed" must address the question of to whom the avowal shall be made so that identification is not dependent on the testimony of others.

Decision

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