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Judicial Council Decision May Have No Meaning

August 8, 1998 the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church reached a decision affirming (officially unconfirmed*) the prohibition of pastors from performing wedding type ceremonies for homosexuals (65C) as legally binding and a violation is a chargeable offense.  According to the United Methodist Reporter report, the decision will not be made public until at least August 17th (now August 11th according to UMC sources).  According to the Associated Press report of the Judicial Council proceedings of August 7&8:

...The Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was accused of disobedience in March for marrying two lesbians, told the panel that the church's Social Principles — including a sentence prohibiting ministers from performing gay marriages — should be seen as guidelines, not law. ``It's not intended to be a straitjacket that forces unanimity and conformity,'' said Creech, of Omaha, Neb. ``Let the Social Principles speak to our heart, don't make them law."

The nine members of the court, known as the Judicial Council, listened to more than 90 minutes of debate Friday then met in private to consider the case. A church spokesman said a decision could come early next week.

But two church bishops argued that allowing ministers to ignore the Social Principles, which are part of church's law contained in its Book of Discipline, would erode the church authority.

``We believe that what is at stake is whether there is integrity in the United Methodist Church, the church that has a code,'' said Bruce Blake, a Methodist bishop from Dallas. (AP)

The Rev. Joe Florence, pastor of Casa Linda Methodist Church in Dallas, who was also interview by the AP press reporter said his congregation would meet to seriously discuss, in Methodist fashion, a Judicial Council decision in favor of gay weddings.

According to Rev. Florence in a telephone interview, the media coverage of the meeting seemed to spotlight Creech and the pro-homosexuality movement.  There was a conspicuous absence of conservative leadership such as Good News and the Confessing Movement.  He said, it would have been better if some spokesperson was there to counter the highly visible presence of the pro-homosexuality forces.

The Confessing Movement Director, Senator Pat Miller, stated, "On behalf of the Confessing Movement, Mrs. Mary Daffin, attorney and secretary-treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Confessing Movement has filed a brief with the Judicial Council for the Special Session August 7 & 8th dealing with the Creech Trial Verdict and related issues."

"Also on behalf of the Confessing Movement, Mrs. Daffin requested to be allowed to make oral arguments. That request was denied. Mrs. Daffin then asked for reconsideration to make oral arguments and that request was also denied."

The Rev. Florence also reported that the arguments presented by the Creech team attempted to cloud the issue of Church law with arguments of "ambiguous language" regarding the meaning of words like minister and homosexual.

Florence also pointed out that a decision by the Judicial Council in favor of Church law as binding would have very little meaning because in October the Council will meet again to decide on the constitutionality of the prohibition of homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual marriages.

The council will review the bishop's decision of law in the North Texas Annual Conference on the meaning of the word "avowed" in the phrase "self-avowed homosexual." Both Oregon-Idaho and California-Nevada annual conferences have asked for a decision on the constitutionality of the sentence from the Discipline that says "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." (UMNS)

There is no doubt in most minds, that the controversial debate over the Biblical, traditional and church law prohibitions against homosexual practice and marriage, which is currently causing division in the United Methodist Church, will continue to the General Conference of 2000 regardless of the August and October Judicial Council decisions.

In 1972, the debate seemed to be settled with the Biblical prohibitions becoming church law.  Every subsequent General Conference the debate seems to be settled with additional debate, adjudication, and legislation.  Now the homosexual and traditional Christian forces are preparing for the General Conference of 2000 to continue the debate regardless of the outcomes of all that has proceeded!

* according to several email communications from various internet discussion groups and local Dallas news sources.

The sure sign of a failed system: "No matter what goes in, the same thing comes out." - Rev. John Warrener

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