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UM Pro-homosexuality Network Meets To Develop Strategy For Unholy War Against Church - Protest High Court Upholding Church Law

From: CORNET [mailto:umcornet@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2001 10:03 PM
Subject: [CALLED OUT] Clergy Alliance Announce Mission to Change the
United Methodist Church


From the Reconciling Ministries Network

Press Release

Clergy Alliance Announce Mission to Change the United Methodist Church Issue Statement Of Concern to Judicial Council

Chicago, November 12, 2001: The Clergy Alliance of Reconciling Ministries Network convened in Washington D.C. last week to organize the newest branch of resistance to the United Methodist Church's discriminatory practices. Following on the heels of the Judicial Council ruling [against the appointment of self-avowed homosexuals in good standing as clergy], the 25 United Methodist clergy in attendance detailed their mission, designated coordinators, and issued a statement requesting review and revision of the JC ruling (see attached statement below).

"The Clergy Alliance is comprised of persons called to ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church who summon the Church to a deeper level of spiritual and theological integrity in relationship to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities and their full inclusion in all aspects of the Church's life. The network is dedicated to active forms of teaching, organizing, strategizing, and resistance to help the church become more faithful to the radical love of Christ," reads the new mission statement of the 67 member organization.

Reverends Karen Oliveto of Bethany UMC in San Francisco, and Don Fado, retired pastor from Sacramento, ask "other clergy to summon the Church to this mission by joining the alliance and engaging in one or more of the following categories of activities:

*Seek to reform the Church through the mechanism of its polity
*Act in radical obedience to the Gospel
*Create within the Church an inclusive network with resources and structure, and/or
*Provide a theological framework that will provide spiritual grounding for this mission."

The Clergy Alliance is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a national network of United Methodist-focused organizations advocating for the full inclusion of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the life of the Church. Founded in 1984, RMN consists of 173 United Methodist congregations, 24 campus ministries, and over 17,000 individual members. Organizations involved include the Parent's Reconciling Network, RMN student movement, and the Clergy Alliance. For additional information about the Clergy Alliance or RMN call or email the Reconciling Ministries Network office at 773-736-5526 or email info@RMNetwork.org

Jenn Williams
Reconciling Ministries Network

November 8, 2001
An Open Letter

To: Members of the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church
From: The Clergy Alliance of the Reconciling Ministries Network
Re: Judicial Council Decision #920

The Clergy Alliance wishes to commend the Judicial Council for its careful attention to the issue of fair process in Decision #920. We concur with the Council's decision at several points. We agree, for instance, that absent a change in conference relation, elders in full connection remain in good standing and should be continued under appointment.

We are deeply concerned, however, that there are several other aspects of the decision that undo critical aspects of the fair process protection afforded clergy members by the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Therefore, on the basis of the following objections, we respectfully request the Judicial Council to review and revise Decision #920.

1. The decision radically curtails the discretionary function of the bishop in the administration of fair process relating to suspension of a clergy member under review for the matter in question. Paragraph 359 c) specifies that it is the responsibility of the bishop to determine the appropriateness of suspension as a response to a complaint. Decision #920 removes this prerogative from the bishop. The Discipline specifies that the purpose of suspension is to protect the well being of the persons making the complaint, the church, or the clergy person who is the object of the complaint. The Judicial Council has failed to demonstrate that the well being of any of these parties is automatically jeopardized by a clergy member's admission that he or she is living in a same sex partnered relationship. The role of episcopal discretion in fair process has been to tailor the application of justice to the particular circumstances of each case. The Judicial Council's decision to, in effect, change the wording of paragraph 359 c) from "may suspend" to "shall suspend", clearly exceeds the Council's authority. Only the General Conference can revise legislation. In Decision #803 the Judicial Council states "it is a violation for the (Cal/Nevada sexual ethics) policy to change or regulate the disciplinary procedures, even by suggestions which limit discretionary decisions." Further, the Council's decision amounts to a kind of mandatory sentencing, a "one size fits all" model of administering fair process.

2. Decision #920 singles out one of twelve possible charges listed in paragraph 2702 for special procedural treatment. There is no basis established within the body of the decision for mandating the suspension of a member charged with engaging in practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching, while those charged with crime, sexual misconduct, or even child abuse still fall within the discretionary guidelines of paragraph 359 c). This decision unfairly singles out one category of offense, and, therefore, one group of persons for exceptional treatment.

3. The recommendation of the Judicial Council that clergy persons under review for the offense in question should be placed on involuntary leave of absence if the review process is not completed within sixty days is a further erosion of fair process protection. The Discipline provides options for the extension of suspension if necessary. Paragraph 2704, 2. b) gives the Committee on Investigation the authority to suspend the member pending the outcome of the judicial process. The recommendation to place a member automatically in the category of involuntary leave is unfair and extra-disciplinary.

4. The Clergy Alliance is deeply disturbed at the Judicial Council's decision to mandate the questioning of one group of members regarding their most intimate sexual practices. The focus upon "genital sexual activity" in Decision #920 as the measure of whether a person is a practicing homosexual is reductionist and misses completely critical and fundamental issues relating to a person's identity. Further, it is arbitrary and discriminatory to ask questions of one group of members that are not asked of all.

5. We are further concerned that the lack of guidance given to review bodies about how to proceed once the question of genital sexual activity has been introduced will lead to unequal, and therefore unfair, treatment across the church. Decision #920 only implies a course of action if the clergy member under review answers the questions of the review body in the affirmative. We believe that in light of the self avowal provisions specified in paragraph 304.3 and its footnote, review bodies should be instructed that if a clergy member refuses to answer such questions, the matter is ended and the member continues in good standing.

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