Wednesday, November 02, 2005


... reinstated to his ministry.
United Methodist ministers do have the power to decide who becomes a member of the local church, the denomination’s top court has ruled, supporting a pastor who blocked an openly gay man from joining the congregation.
This is good news for the authentic Methodists and bad news for lay power brokers, elites, and wolves in sheep's clothing.Church
The United Methodist Judicial Council, holding its regular fall meeting Oct. 26-29, issued two decisions related to the case of Rev. Ed Johnson, who was serving as senior pastor at South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church until he was placed on involuntary leave of absence in June.

In Decision 1031, the council dealt with the due process problems in how Johnson was disciplined. Decision 1032 was the more sweeping ruling, saying that the church’s Book of Discipline “invests discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership.”

The result of both decisions is that Johnson is to be immediately reinstated to the status he held before being placed on involuntary leave of absence, with all salary and benefits retroactive to July 1, and is entitled to receive an appointment.
And the following is encouraging to the ears of a sola fide guy like me ...
One thing is clear ... the Constitution and Social Principles of the United Methodist Church have not changed. Our Book of Discipline has not changed. All persons are of sacred worth. Our communion table is open to all persons who profess their belief in Jesus Christ and are seeking forgiveness for their sins. God’s love is unconditional.
But this is disturbing ...
The Virginia case involved an openly gay man who was participating in the South Hill church in a variety of ways, including singing in the choir. The man wanted to transfer his membership from another denomination, and Johnson began a series of meetings with him. The man’s sexual orientation was a significant part of the discussions. Johnson refused to receive the man into membership because he said the man would neither repent nor seek to live a different lifestyle.

The church’s associate pastor, who disagreed with Johnson, contacted the district superintendent, and a disciplinary process began that eventually resulted in Johnson being placed on involuntary leave by a vote of his fellow ministers at the 2005 clergy session of the Virginia Annual Conference. [CRIB emphasis]
Perhaps the Bishops should reconvene in order to remove some of Johnson's "fellow ministers," especially his associate pastor? What an embarassment he is!
In the decision dealing with the authority of a pastor, the council’s ruling states that Paragraphs 214 and 225 of the Book of Discipline are “permissive and do not mandate receipt into membership of all persons regardless of their willingness to affirm membership vows.”

The operative word in both paragraphs, the ruling says, is that persons “may” become members. “Decision 930 established the premise that ‘shall’ cannot be used to replace ‘may’ in the Discipline . Thus the General Conference has determined that any person ‘may’ become a member of any local church in the connection.” This also applies to people who want to transfer into the United Methodist Church from another denomination, as was the case in Virginia, the council ruled.
I believe where there is heat there is the potential for fire and this heat points to the fire of hope for Methodists.
The ruling also cites Paragraph 340.3(a), which includes among responsibilities of pastors as being the “administrative officers of the local church.”

“As part of these administrative responsibilities, the pastor in charge of a United Methodist Church or charge is solely responsible for making the determination of a person’s readiness to receive the vows of membership,” the decision says. “ … The pastor-in-charge is entrusted with discretion in the exercise of this responsibility.”

The ruling continues that “since the pastor is not required by the Discipline to admit into membership all persons …. and since the Discipline designates the pastor to be ‘the administrative officer of the local church,’ … a pastor in charge cannot be ordered by the district superintendent or bishop to admit into membership a person deemed not ready or able to meet the requirements of the vows of church membership. … The appointed pastor in charge has the duty and responsibility to exercise responsible pastoral judgment in determining who may be received into membership of a local church.”
Bottom-line, some lower level hotshots got their comeuppance, while local pastors and local congregations had some authority rightly restored. This has widespread implications for local congregations.

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