The March acquittal of a lesbian pastor will be re-examined by the highest court of the United Methodist Church.
A majority of delegates to General Conference requested the ruling following the reading of another Judicial Council ruling on homosexuality.
On April 29, the Judicial Council ruled that the practice of homosexuality is a chargeable offense for clergy. By a 6-3 margin, the court ruled that the statement “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Paragraph 304.3 of the 2000 Book of Discipline) is indeed a declaration of the General Conference, the only body that can speak for the 10 million-member denomination.
After a reading of that ruling, the Rev. Maxie Dunnam, Kentucky Annual (regional) Conference, moved that Judicial Council be asked to rule on the “meaning, application and effect” of the April 29 decision on the outcome of the trial of the Rev. Karen Dammann. The self-avowed homosexual clergy member of the Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference was found innocent of the charge of engaging in practices “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Dunnam also asked the council to determine if a United Methodist bishop can legally appoint a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.
Delegate Frank Dorsey, Kansas East Conference, opposed the motion, saying that it was “striking at our heart with a knife to ... destroy our church,” but Dunnam’s motion was approved by a vote of 551-345.
In other business, the delegates took actions that will expand the church’s ministries with young people and in rural communities.
By a 780-109 vote, the General Conference approved the creation of a Division on Ministries with Young People; 11 delegates abstained from voting. The budget of $6.6 million, which included $1.8 million off the general church budget, was approved by a 749-140 vote, with 7 abstentions.
“This is an historic moment,” said Jeffrey Greenway, Western Pennsylvania delegate and chair of the legislative committee on discipleship. “The young people have shown us a model where the old things pass away and new things come into being.”
As part of the proposal, the United Methodist Youth Organization and the Forum for Adult Workers in Youth Ministry will disband. The Shared Mission Focus on Young People will be folded into the new division.
In an effort to support rural ministries, the General Conference adopted a $425,000 budget earmarked for strengthening rural congregations. By doing so, the assembly gave permission to the denomination’s National Comprehensive Plan for Town & Country Ministries to develop and support ministries in rural cultures and contexts for the next four years.
The plan will also assist in developing effective leadership for town and country ministries. Town & Country Ministries is a program of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
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