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UM Hearing "Re-imagines" Church Law–Performance of Mass Lesbian Wedding No Longer A Chargeable Offense

From: "U.M. Cornet" umcornet@hotmail.com


The news conference in Sacramento has just begun. CORNET has received this copy of the decision. It is an unofficial version. Our understanding is that all of the clergy have received the same letter. An official announcement is to appear this afternoon at: http://www.gbgm-umc.org/CANV/hear.htm   We would expect that UMNS will also have a press release this afternoon. Stay tuned...

CORNET moderator ------

Feb. 8. Decision of the Committee on Investigation for Clergy Members

On May 10, 1999, the Committee on Investigation for Clergy Members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference received a Judicial Complaint alleging that 68 clergy had been disobedient to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church by officiating at a Holy Union Celebration on January 16, 1999. The complaint has required a unique investigation. The question before us was whether or not there were reasonable grounds to certify the charge as proper for a trial. We concluded that the answer required a methodology consistent with our whole faith rather than one limited by a narrow focus. A three-day public hearing was convened to seek evidence from a variety of expert witnesses addressing scripture, tradition, ethics, experience, reason and the history of this annual conference.

We want to affirm that we in the California-Nevada Annual Conference are not of one mind regarding our church's ministry to the gay/lesbian community. We confess that our differences of opinion have resulted in division and tension among us, testing the depth of our commitment to our mutual covenant. We continue to be in dialogue with one another as clergy and laity in this Annual Conference. Together, we find our unity in Jesus Christ. We give thanks and rejoice that through God's grace we are empowered to love one another, even when we do not agree on this issue. Most recently, a significant number of clergy and laity became concerned by an addition of Paragraph 65C at the 1996 General Conference which states, "...ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." Subsequently, the Judicial Council ruled [Decision No. 833] that "Conduct in violation of this prohibition renders clergy liable to a charge of disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church under Paragraph 2626 of the Discipline."

We also affirm that our history of ministry and mission in the California-Nevada Annual Conference exemplifies a commitment to the value of inclusiveness expressed in Paragraph 117, and to the general understanding of the United Methodist Church as a denomination whose "...ministry of service is a primary representation of God's love [Paragraph 303.2]."

The Committee on Investigation shares this background information as a preface to the decisions regarding the complaints filed against the 68 clergy. These respondents acknowledge their participation in the celebration.

The Committee on Investigation for Clergy Members does not certify the Judicial Complaint dated May 10, 1999 relating to the Service of Celebration of the Holy Union of Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton held on January 16th, 1999, Sacramento against (NAME OF RESPONDENT) as a charge proper to trial.

Signed: The Rev. Ronald E. Swisher, Chair, COI.

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