Delegates clarify chargeable offenses for United Methodist pastors

Unfaithfulness in marriage and not being celibate in singleness can be considered chargeable offenses for United Methodist clergy.

In a May 4 session, delegates attending the United Methodist Church’s 2004 General Conference clarified immorality and identified the practices the church considers as violations of Christian teaching.

Delegates to the denomination’s top legislative assembly amended the paragraph in the Book of Discipline outlining chargeable offenses to clarify the language and to give bishops, pastors and other clergy and diaconal ministers a list of offenses that could result in a trial.

The delegates also expanded Paragraph 2702, which contains items for which clergy may be charged. Delegates added “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual, conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions and performing same-sex wedding ceremonies” to the list of offenses that might evoke a trial.

“The language speaks to the needs of our church at this time,” said Jon Gray, a delegate from Kansas City, Mo., and newly elected member of the denomination’s Judicial Council.

In a vote of 455-445, the delegates changed Paragraph 2702 to state: “A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference, local pastor, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may choose a trial when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in 2702.4) with one or more of the following offenses: a) immorality, including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not being faithful in a heterosexual marriage; b) practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

What the decision does, Gib Walton of the Texas Conference says, is to place the various disqualifications for ordination found in Paragraph 304 into the chargeable offense section to increase the clarity for clergy of what constitutes an offense.

According to the Rev. Linda Campbell, New England Conference, it is important to be clear about every issue that is considered to be incompatible with Christian teaching. “Incompatible is incompatible,” she said.

Campbell said the church is increasingly moving toward what has been historically known as a period of inquisition, adding, “It has been very important for the inquisitor to have a clear definition of what it is the person ... is charged with.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter speaks during an oral hearing before the United Methodist Judicial Council meeting in Evanston, Ill. Carter is president of the denomination's Council of Bishops. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church exit plan already in effect, court says

But the United Methodist Judicial Council has no ruling on Traditional Plan questions from bishops.
General Conference
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, discusses his ideas for the interim time as the church works toward its future. He proposes a moratorium on the complaint process related to LGBTQ infractions alongside a loosening of the trust clause. Video image courtesy of UM News.

Bishop suggests hold on trials, trust clause

The Council of Bishops president proposes coupling a pause in church trials related to LGBTQ restrictions and a relaxation of the denomination’s trust clause.
General Church
United Methodist Judicial Council member Warren Plowden (left) asks a question about the investigation of improper voting during the 2019 United Methodist General Conference. He was questioning Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the denomination's Council of Bishops, and William Waddell, the council's legal advisor, during an oral hearing at the Judicial Council meeting in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Top court raises questions at lively oral hearing

Judicial Council members wonder about authority, lack of documentation over ruling request on improper voting.