On Behalf Of umcornet
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2005 10:02 AM
Subject: [CALLED OUT] Affirmation Co-Spokesperson's Statement on Two Judicial Council Decisions
Affirmation Co-spokesperson's Statement on Two Judicial Council Decisions
Peggy R. Gaylord, Co-spokeperson for National Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns, Inc., has released the following statement. Included below the statement are digests of the two Judicial Council decisions, a dissenting opinion re. No. 1027, and links to the complete decisions.
"My immediate response is that I am shocked and greatly dismayed at the Judicial Council's decision to reverse last May's [Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals] ruling reinstating Irene Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud's clergy credentials. Alan Symonette's oral argument [her attorney] was wonderfully clear, powerful, and covered the depth of the implications of the issue. The church's counsel, Tom Hall, was also very clear, which I thought was to our advantage, so that people could see the real discrepancy. I was lulled into the hope that the Judicial Council would understand the essential issues of discrimination and oppression, and God's higher authority above the institution of church, especially its law. No one seems to remember Jesus and the Pharisees in these legal cases.
"I am absolutely astounded that the Judicial Council also reversed Bishop [Charlene P.] Kammerer's decision concerning the involuntary leave of absence of The Rev. Edward Johnson who was suspended because he had refused church membership to a gay man. That case has even larger implications for our constituency, and for the church as a whole around the issue of inclusion, and the gifts and graces that diversity brings to all of us. Up until this point, gay-identified people have generally been admitted to church membership despite contradictions in our United Methodist Book of Discipline ['homosexuals are of sacred worth,' printed alongside, 'homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching'].
"I acknowledge that both decisions ultimately rest on technicalities of church law and must be read in that light. However, it hadn't occurred to me that the underlying issue could be whether we are all God's children. I thought we all shared at least that fundamental belief."
The Rev. Peggy R. Gaylord and the Rev. Vivian Ruth Waltz were both present for the trial, jurisdictional appeal, and Judicial Council hearing for Beth Stroud, as Affirmation's official representatives.
Affirmation will be developing a more in-depth response to these two cases and another that was not argued orally. Affirmation will release that response publicly on its web site http://www.umaffirm.org .
Affirmation's Mission Statement: As an independent voice of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people, Affirmation radically reclaims the compassionate and transforming gospel of Jesus Christ by relentlessly pursuing full inclusion in the Church as we journey with the Spirit in creating God's beloved community.
Judicial Decisions 1027 and 1031:
Decision No. 1027
In Re: IN RE: Appeal by the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church from the Decision of the Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals in the Matter of Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud.
DIGEST OF CASE
The decision of the Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals is reversed and the verdict and penalty of the trial court in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference is reinstated. Rev. Stroud was accorded all fair and due process rights enumerated in the Discipline and in Judicial Council decisions. Regulation of the practice of homosexuality does not violate the "status" provisions of the Constitution. The Committee on Appeals was without jurisdiction to declare that ¶304.3 established a new standard of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine. Such a determination is reserved solely to the General Conference, and the Discipline does not require that it must use specific language to do so. The instructions of the presiding officer of the trial court correctly stated the law of the church with respect to the penalty deliberations of the trial court and did not constitute error.
Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part
We do not disagree with the legal analysis of our colleagues, although we deeply regret the outcome.
The Church continues to struggle with the issue of homosexuality. The Church is clearly of many minds on this issue. People of deep faith and conscience continue to struggle and pray over these matters. While the Judicial Council must be faithful to its charge from the Church we are also sensitive to the hurt, pain and brokenness of the family of God.
As to the legal issues here, it should be noted that all matters of doctrine are protected by the Constitution's Restrictive Rules. The first Restrictive Rule states: "The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine" (¶ 17.Article I., 2004 Discipline, p. 27). Paragraph 304.3 does not rise to the standard of doctrine. (Decisions 86, 358, 847)
The Constitution, ¶ 16, states: "The General Conference shall have full legislative power over all matters distinctively connectional …." The General Conference has the authority to adopt ¶ 304.3. This authority should be consistent with other provisions of the Constitution.
The broader issue of the meaning and intent of ¶ 33 of the Constitution may need to be addressed by the General Conference. The framers in the Constitution delegated to the Annual Conference the right to vote of all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members. Specifically, ¶ 33 states: "The annual conference is the basic body in the Church and as such shall have reserved to it the right to vote on all . . . matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members, and on the ordination of clergy. . . ."
How might the Church resolve the conflict between the Constitution in ¶ 33 ("the Annual Conference has reserved to it the right to vote on all . . . matters of character and conference relations of its clergy members . . . .") and the a priori (presupposed) prohibition in ¶ 304.3 of one category of persons for candidacy and ordination? Only in ¶ 304.3 is there a prohibition which relates to prejudged "conduct" prior to examination of character. Is this not categorical discrimination? The above prohibition was inserted into the section on qualifications for ordination (¶ 304). Must not all candidates and clergy be held to the same standards? It would seem that matters of character and qualification (without a priori disqualification) of all candidates and ministers must be the sole consideration. Decision 318 said that an annual conference may not add or subtract from the basic ministerial obligations established by act of the General Conference.
Susan T. Henry-Crowe
Complete decision is at:
Decision No. 1031
In Re: IN RE: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Virginia Annual Conference Related to the Disciplinary Purview of the Conference Relations Committee of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the Fair Process Rights of a Pastor.
DIGEST OF CASE
The decision of law Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer is reversed. This case is remanded to the Virginia Annual Conference to terminate forthwith the involuntary leave of absence of the Elder. The Conference Relations Committee of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry had no authority to consider a judicial complaint. The Board's authority extends to consideration of remedial or other action on an administrative complaint. The Board of Ordained Ministry transformed an allegation determined by the Bishop to be the basis for an administrative complaint into a chargeable offense and as such did not have disciplinary authority to consider the complaint. The Clergy Session's action in approving involuntary leave of absence based on specifications supporting a chargeable offense is null and void. The Elder is entitled to reinstatement to the status he held immediately prior to the action placing him on involuntary leave of absence. The Elder is entitled to immediate appointment and all salary and other benefits retroactive to July 1, 2005. Complete decision is at:http://archives.umc.org/interior_judicial.asp?mid=&3&JDID=97&JDMOD==VWD
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