Boards reaffirm stand for LGBTQ clergy candidates

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The New York and Pacific Northwest conference boards of ordained ministry are reaffirming their 2016 decisions not to consider issues of sexuality when evaluating candidates for ordained ministry.

These announcements come after the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled that boards of ordained ministry must adhere to the church’s position on homosexuality when considering candidates for ministry.

New York and Pacific Northwest were among seven conference boards of ordained ministry, conferences or clergy sessions that came out in support of LGBTQ ministry candidates at last year’s annual conference meetings. The other five have not responded to recent decisions of the denomination’s top court.

“It was difficult to sort out the confusion and misinformation that surrounded the Judicial Council rulings and their impact, and to hear the anxiety and fear generated by them,” said the Rev. Lara Bolger, chair of the Pacific Northwest conference board of ordained ministry.

“It was not difficult to stand by our statement of practice in light of what has happened since that time,” she said.

The Rev. James “K” Karpen said the New York board spent a lot of time discussing “the fallout” from the 2016 statement.

“I personally felt we had a choice between trying somehow to comply with the bigoted and narrowly restrictive clauses of the Book of Discipline, and following Jesus. For me that was not a hard choice,” said Karpen, who is on the New York board of ordained ministry and pastor of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Manhattan.

“As a board of ordained ministry, I feel we have a very high standard of fitness for the ordained ministry, and have quite an elaborate and thorough process for ascertaining whether a candidate meets that standard. We examine all relevant information in each case, and take a long, prayerful time doing it. I am personally very proud of the job we do,” he said.

The Pacific Northwest Conference board of ordained ministry’s statement also affirmed that clergy candidates are held “to the highest standard of faithful and holy living.”

“I feel strongly for the full inclusion of all people. I also feel strongly that not everyone has to think and look and act like me to be United Methodist,” said the Rev. DJ del Rosario, member of the Pacific Northwest board of ordained ministry and pastor of Bothell (Wash.) United Methodist Church. 

“That’s why even though we still have a long way to go as a church, I strongly support our Pacific Northwest board of ordained ministry’s ability to act in accordance with our calling as clergy, but more importantly to act as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in a time when as a church, we are in the wrong in many ways.”

The April Judicial Council ruling cited The Book of Discipline Paragraph 304.3 for Decision 1343 regarding a New York Conference bishop’s decision of law, and Decision 1344, related to a bishop’s decision of law in Northern Illinois.

Paragraph 304.3 in the denomination’s lawbook, which prohibits self-avowed practicing homosexuals from being “certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the Methodist Church,” also prevents a board of ordained ministry “from ignoring statements of self-disclosure,” the decision said.

This “full inquiry” of candidates in the categories of local pastor, associate membership, provisional membership and full conference membership should include all provisions relevant to pastoral ministry, including issues of sexuality, the decisions said.

“Candidates for licensed and ordained ministry seeking election into The United Methodist Church should be treated fairly and denial of entry must be based upon the evidence received from the results of the full examination,” the decisions said.

The New York decision was the continuation of a petition on a bishop’s decision of law that was on the council’s October 2016 docket. Decision 1343 modifies the ruling the court received from Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, now retired, on two questions raised during annual conference in June.

“We live in a time when in The United Methodist Church, people are taking sides,” Del Rosario said. “It’s as if there are lines drawn in the sand, and these lines are drawn to force people to choose polity and doctrine over the sanctifying grace that lays a part of foundation of who we are.”

Gilbert is a multimedia report for United Methodist News Service. Linda Bloom, assistant news editor, contributed to this report. Contact Gilbert at 615-742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 

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