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Decision No. 1028

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October 28 2005
In Re: Review of Bishop’s Decision of Law in the California-Nevada Annual Conference Related to the Adoption by the Annual Conference of a Resolution Concerning Reporting on Ways a Congregation had Made Plans to Welcome and Include LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered) Persons in Leadership Roles in the Church Specifically at Odds with ¶304.3 of the 2004 Discipline.

Digest of Case

The decision of law of Bishop Beverly J. Shamana is affirmed. The Annual Conference’s resolution concerning lay involvement and leadership in local churches does not encourage or require district superintendents to hold churches accountable for a position specifically at odds with ¶304.3 of the 2004 Discipline, which applies to clergy certification, ordination and appointment.

Statement of Facts

On Saturday, June 17, 2005, the California-Nevada Annual Conference adopted the following resolution:

11. We Will Not Be Silent To encourage congregations to think anew about ways to draw the circle wider to welcome and include people who may be on the edges in our communities, we recommended the following actions: 1. The district office shall send a copy of the 2004 principals “We Will Not Be Silent! We Will Build a Table, Make a Home, Claim a Vision!” in all-church conference/church charge conference packet. 2. The Church administrative council will be asked by the District Superintendent to report during the all-church conference/church charge conference ways its congregation has acted in the past year to implement any of the four inclusion principles: A. To provide hospitality to the poor and to work to combat root causes of poverty in our communities. B. To provide hospitality across the boundaries of race, language, and culture. C. To make plans to welcome and include LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered) persons in leadership roles in the church, and D. To provide hospitality and increase accessibility to persons with developmental, physical, mental and emotional disabilities. 3. The annual all-church conference/charge conference packet shall include a form to give congregations the option to share stories of ways their congregation successfully implemented any of the four principles of inclusion. The form may be sent directly to the Conference Communications Office for use in Instant Connection or other Conference communication.
Upon adoption, a request was made in writing for a ruling of law. Bishop Beverly J. Shamana was asked: “5. Does our adoption of Item 11, specifically part C (renamed from part 3) of the referenced document, encourage or require our District Superintendents to hold churches accountable for a position specifically at odds with ¶ 304.3 in the 2004 Discipline.” The Bishop answered:
This question is limited to Par, 2.C of Item 11 which stated thus, “To make plans to welcome and include LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered) persons in leadership roles in the Church.” The heading to this resolution indicates it is all “recommendation”, so it in no way carried force of a mandate of law. Even if it did purport to be a mandate to district superintendents to ask certain questions at charge conferences, there is nothing in Par. 2.C that violates the Book of Discipline. (See Judicial Council Decision #913 citing ¶ 161.g) Further, since district superintendents are constitution officers of the entire denomination (¶53), they are required to follow the Book of Discipline even if a “recommendation” from Annual Conference were to be interpreted as requiring them to do to otherwise. Par.2.C refers to lay members of local churched inviting people to their congregation, while ¶ 304.3 is a prohibition that applies to clergy regarding certifying, ordaining or appointing “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”. (As indicated above, it is not my judgment that Par, 2.C of 11 so requires them.) Ruling: In light of the above, the answer to Question #5 is “no”.
Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609.6 of the 2004 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Under the resolution the district superintendent would be asking the church administrative council to report on ways it had acted to implement any of the four inclusion principles. How the church is making plans to welcome lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons in leadership roles in the church is one of those inclusion principles. The Bishop is correct in her ruling that ¶ 304.3 applies to persons in the ordained ministry and the prohibition against certifying, ordaining, and appointing self-avowed practicing homosexuals to serve in the Church. The adopted provision says the district superintendent would be asking for a report on how the church is making plans to welcome lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons into the leadership of the church. Paragraph 214 of the Discipline states,“[a]ll people may attend its [The United Methodist Church] worship services, participate in the programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection.…” Further, The United Methodist Church is committed to be in ministry for and with all persons. See¶ 161G, 2004 Discipline and Decision 913.
Decision
The decision of law of Bishop Beverly J. Shamana is affirmed. The Annual Conference’s resolution concerning lay involvement and leadership in local churches does not encourage or require district superintendents to hold churches accountable for a position specifically at odds with ¶304.3 of the 2004 Discipline, which applies to clergy certification, ordination and appointment. October 29, 2005 Shamwange P. Kyungu was absent.

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