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Decision No. 794

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October 24 1996
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Wisconsin Annual Conference Concerning the Legality of Adoption by the Annual Conference of a "Resolution to Become a Reconciling Conference."

Digest of Case

The bishop's decision is affirmed in finding that a resolution adopted by the Annual Conference entitled "Resolution to Become a Reconciling Conference," which text clearly only welcomes all people into its Churches, does not violate any provision of the 1992 Discipline.

Statement of Facts

On Saturday, June 1, 1996, during the session of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, a "Resolution to Become a Reconciling Conference" was adopted by the Conference. The text of the resolution reads as follows: Whereas, the overwhelming perception among gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons is that they are not welcome in churches, and only a public statement can begin to overcome that perceived reality; THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Wisconsin Annual Conference declare itself to be a Reconciling Conference, welcoming all people into its churches. Following the approval of the resolution, a member of the Annual Conference requested that the bishop rule on the legality of the resolution. The bishop ruled that the resolution did not violate any provision of the 1992 Discipline and cited ¶ 71(F) of the Discipline which states: Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship which enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality, and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons. (emphasis added) The bishop further stated in the decision that "the Resolution clearly welcomes all persons (including gay, lesbian and bisexual persons) into Churches. It does not call for ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals, nor does it condone the practice of homosexuality." The bishop further stated that the conference may in the future further define its intentions in becoming a Reconciling Conference and that the bishop's decision did not cover any subsequent actions undertaken by the Annual Conference in that regard. The basis of the request for the decision of law was stated as follows: A. Stated purposes of Reconciling Congregations organization which includes advocating that practicing homosexuals can be ordained as ministers. B. The Statements in the Discipline Par. 71F--"we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching". C. Par. 402.2 "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church". Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1992 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The basis for the request for the decision of law was based on a document entitled "Reconciling Congregation Program; Historical Introduction. June 1996" which was submitted with the brief from the conference member requesting the ruling. The said document contained a statement that it was a movement "... working for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in our denomination. Full inclusion includes rights to ordination and to covenant services for same gender couples." This document was not a part of the resolution adopted by the conference. The resolution is clear in its meaning and does not imply adoption of the purposes or goals or membership in any organization or movement. (See also Decision 665.) The bishop confined the decision only to the resolution as adopted and not to any further actions the conference may take in the future in further defining its intentions in becoming a Reconciling Conference.

Decision

The bishop's decision is affirmed in finding that a resolution adopted by the Annual Conference entitled "Resolution to Become a Reconciling Conference," which text clearly only welcomes all people into its churches, does not violate any provision of the 1992 Discipline.

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