Pastor of Former California UMC, reflects upon Judicial Council Decision
What about the UMC Judicial Council Decision?
You may have heard that on August 8, the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denominations Supreme Court, ruled that the prohibition on same-sex marriages in the United Methodist Social Principles is church law. This is a reversal of the reasoning of the jury in the trial of former Omaha pastor Jimmy Creech earlier this year. Though Creech's acquittal stands because he cannot be tried twice, the church law has been clarified in a way that should encourage all who hold to the authority of Scripture on the matter. But what does it mean to us at Kingsburg Community Church? Were we too hasty in leaving the UMC? Does this Judicial Council ruling really change anything?
I believe that, though the ruling is encouraging, it falls far short of a victory for those who hold to the Bible. For one thing, another challenge to the constitutionality of the prohibition on same-sex marriage is to be considered in October. This challenge comes from the California-Nevada and Oregon-Idaho Annual Conferences which question the law as discriminatory. So the pro-gay advocates have not given up; they will continue their crusade to legitimize homosexual behavior within the denomination. I do not believe that the question will ever be settled in the UMC unless there is a church wide split.
Furthermore, we must remember that the crisis which caused us to separate from the UMC is not really about homosexuality. The gay issue is only one example of a larger crisis which revolves around the authority of the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Judicial Council ruling did nothing to reestablish the authority of Scripture in the UMC.
We have concluded that there are two different faiths in the UMC today. One holds that the basic truths of the faith were given once through Scripture and do not change. The other view holds that Christian faith changes its meaning in each generation. We hold to the first faith. And it is clear that the leadership of the California-Nevada Annual Conference holds just as tenaciously to the second faith. We continue to believe that the two faiths cannot be held together in one organization. The Judicial Council ruling did nothing to resolve the conflict between the two belief systems.
Finally, there is the issue of leadership. The Bishop and all of the District Superintendents are on public record supporting gay and lesbian marriages. Although the Bishop has stated his intention to uphold the Judicial Council ruling, he makes it clear that he finds it personally objectionable. So he is in the position either of enforcing a law which goes against his conscience or of paying only lip service to the law. Personally, I doubt that this law will ever be enforced in California-Nevada. Instead, the leadership will adopt a don't ask, don't tell policy with pastors who continue to do same-sex services. The law of the church may have been clarified by the Judicial Council, but the minds of the Conference leadership have not been changed. We are blessed to have been delivered from such leadership.
Friends, I think we should continue to praise God for delivering us from the Annual Conference. I am more confident every day that we are following the Fathers will for us as a church family. Now, instead of fighting an endless battle within a dying denomination, we can channel all of our energy to taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. We will continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in faith in the UMC, but we will also move on to a greater mission as a church family.
We continue to wait for the Conference Board of Trustees to meet on September 14th to consider the next step in negotiating for our buildings. The Conference Treasurer remains hopeful that we will be able to negotiate a settlement rapidly. I ask for your prayers and your patience. I will keep you updated as any new developments arise. Blessings on you all.
Pastor Ed Ezaki
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