Disobedient Pastor And Counsel Celebrate UM's Lack Of Accountability For Homosexual Unions
We applaud the decision of the Nebraska Conference Committee on Investigation to dismiss the judicial complaint against Rev. Mark Kemling. Their determination that the evidence did not establish reasonable grounds to certify the complaint as a charge is very encouraging. This will enable Rev. Kemling to return to his ministry and witness without the probability of a trial hanging over him. The issues surrounding ministry to and with GLBT persons cannot and will not be resolved in our conference or denomination through the judicial process.
If there are persons in the church who insist on using the judicial complaint process to attack pastors who welcome GLBT persons fully into the life of the church, this outcome reminds them how difficult such cases are to prove. Use of the judicial complaint process in application of paragraph 332.6 of the 2000 BOD (65c of the 1996 BOD) is fraught with problems. Among them are a legally useful definition of the term, "homosexual unions", and what constitutes proof that such a union has been celebrated. (The process the general church has gone through to find a legally useful definition of the term "Self-avowed practicing homosexual" in paragraph 304.3 illustrates this problem.) An additional legal problem is that this charge must be made for a church crime that has no victim.
We appeal to our sisters and brothers in the church to show respect for one another in our struggles to seek full embodiment of the gospel. It is important that we honor the variety of gifts and calls to ministry that God has given us. We call the church to honest conversation, study and prayer in our efforts to get along amid deep differences about how to include our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered sisters and brothers.
To our GLBT sisters and brothers, we say that you are loved by God. We commit ourselves to continue to work for your full inclusion in our church.
Rev. Mark Kemling Rev. Jay Vetter, Counsel for Rev. Kemling Mr. Mike McClellan, Co-Counsel for Rev. Kemling
Most of you know that I was asked by Mark Kemling to serve as his counsel when he responded to a complaint filed against him for allegedly officiating at a Holy Union ceremony of two men. The complaint was filed by one of our ministerial colleagues in the Nebraska Conference and based on a story he had read in a newspaper. The hearing before the Committee on Investigation was held in February and its decision to not refer the matter for trial has been reported in the local press.
While I am pleased with the results of the hearing, it was not a pleasant experience. Our Book of Discipline and rulings of the Judicial Council (United Methodist Supreme Court) provide specific guidelines and safeguards for the processing of judicial complaints. It is not intended to be a path easily followed. One of the most difficult aspects of the process is that it casts church persons in adversarial roles.
If there are persons in the church who insist on using the judicial complaint process to attack pastors who welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons fully into the life of the church, this outcome reminds them how difficult such cases are to prove. Use of the judicial complaint process in application of Disciplinary statement that prohibits conduct of "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions" is fraught with problems. Strict enforcement would require that we develop investigative and prosecutorial components that would surely change the very nature of the church.
It is my hope that we will show respect for one another in our struggles to seek full embodiment of the gospel. It is important that we honor the variety of gifts and calls to ministry that God has given us. I fear that in trying to resolve our differences through the judicial complaint process we will lose sight of the grace of Jesus Christ altogether. When I left the hearing I felt a deep sense of sadness. Even though the committee decided in our favor, I am still sad.
This will likely not be the last such hearing. Will we become more adept at investigating and prosecuting one another or will we find ways to include all God's people fully in the life of the church? I think I prefer a church that celebrates over one that condemns.
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