August 29, 2013

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Upholding the Discipline

“Uphold the Discipline” is a phrase that we hear tossed around a lot these days.  Specifically, I hear it asked in the context of the inclusion of LGBT persons within The United Methodist Church, particularly in relation to the marriage equality movement spreading across the UMC—a movement of which I am a proud member. 

Leaders of the Renewal movement want to know, will a bishop “uphold the Discipline” if a clergy member under their charge officiates at the wedding of a couple who are of the same sex?  In episcopal election years, like last year, it’s the episcopal candidates who are asked some version of this question in order to elicit, or not, the answer, “I will uphold the Discipline.”  If a person is a bishop, or aspires to be one, this is a question that must be answered.

Correspondingly, when clergy officiate at such weddings of couples of the same sex, they are accused of acting contrary to the Book of Discipline, of not “upholding the Discipline.”

This question, in fact, has been on the minds of church leaders for more than a decade.  As far back as 2003, the Judicial Council itself raised the specter of this question.  In Decision 980, the Judicial Council overturned a committee on investigation’s action in relation to the then Rev. Karen Dammann, who had been accused of being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”  In that Decision, the Judicial Council ruled in part, “persons who state that they cannot in good conscience uphold the Discipline are ineligible to serve on a trial jury” in cases such as Dammann’s. It was also ruled that such persons can’t sit on a committee on investigation when such a complaint is under review. 

This begs the question, since when did the essence of the Book of Discipline get boiled down to ¶ 2702.1?  Or even ¶ 304.3?  I can’t speak for others, but the book I have in my hands, the one from 2012, has more than two pages.

I also believe in upholding the Book of Discipline, but I recognize that the entirety of the Discipline isn’t contained in ¶ 2702.1. 

Article IV, “Inclusiveness of the Church,” in Division I of the Constitution (¶ 4), which speaks of all persons being of sacred worth and being able to fully participate in the Church, is also in the Discipline

Articles XXI, “Of the Marriage of Ministers,” and XXII, “Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches,” of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church (within ¶ 104) are also in the Discipline.  Article XXI says in part, “The ministers of Christ are not vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage”…and they are permitted to “marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.”  Article XXII states that the rites and ceremonies of the church do not have to be “the same or exactly alike” in all places, and they “may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.”


August 29, 2013

Comments (3)

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Discipline as Process

No Discipline is perfect or perfectible. I have serious concerns about a variety of our social stands (but these do change from time to time). I am equally or more concerned about a number of theological statements made in the Disicpline. Yet I support it. By this I mean that I support the process of conferencing, even when it is mean and stupid. We will have another Discipline in 2016. There the conferencing may be even more limiting as proposals are mandated to figure out more part of the Discipline "are not subject to change or adaptation." [¶101] This poses a grave threat to the process of Discipline development and in light of the limited wisdom of any given General Conference. Recent actions of which have been much less than stellar. I can't imagine good coming out of even more restrictive legislation that binds us to yesterday.

Wesley White 214 days ago


One seems to often have a narrow focus when it comes to upholding the Discipline. For instance, pastors are quickly brought upon charges while laypeople who come under the same trial directives are allowed to disrupt and kill the soul of our churches in violation of the Discipline. Pastors who do "same sex" weddings are brought up on charges, however, pastors who do weddings of heterosexual couples WITHOUT A VALID MARRIAGE LICENSE, in order that the couple NOT lose ther social security benefits are also in violation of the Discipline. I know of one clergy couple who recently performed a "wedding - covenant service" for a couple who got "married WITHOUT a wedding license. When I asked for a ruling from a General Church agency about this, I was told, the Wedding service is intended for use of heterosexual copies UNDER the laws of a state and with use of a valid marriage license. To do a covenant service for a HETEROSEXUAL COUPLE is as in violation of the Discipline and a chargeable offense, the same as doing a covenant service for same-sex couple.

Rev. Thomas L. Shanklin 222 days ago

Nice list-making

This is certainly the UMC equivalent of the much-touted response to the "clobber passages" in the Bible used to justify hatred against LGBTs, citing things like slavery, shrimp, and mensturation. The answer is, of course, the haters want to justify hate however they can. Our hateful sneering passage about how "homosexual practice" (for those who can't do it right, I reckon) is "incompatible with Christian teaching" is enough reason itself to wipe the dust from the feet and leave the UMC. But the animating contest of justice calls us back.

George N. Shuler, LCSW 224 days ago



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