Can We Get a Moratorium on UMC Trials, Too?



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from your lips to the bishops' ears

I think Jeremy, that you are correct. trials for same sex marriage and self avowed practicing homosexuals, must end. I believe the bishops have the discretion to this. I also believe they will not declare that the anti gay laws will no longer be prosecuted until they feel they have no other choice. That could happen when same sex marriage is near universal in the US and every state is being inundated with requests for UM clergy to perform same gender weddings. Another possibility may be to invite non UM clergy to perform the same gender weddings in UM churches. That would make it very difficult for bishops to prosecute because laity would be making the decision to host these weddings. I don't think trustees or councils will be put on trial.

jeff more than 7 years ago

You might want to rethink this, Jeremy

Brother Jeremy, don’t let one bad law make you want to throw out the baby with the bathwater—or in this case, throw out our church trials.

For openers, they are guaranteed to clergy not only by church law, not only by our church Constitution, but specifically by the Fourth Restrictive Rule of the Constitution—one that requires an extreme super-majority to pass.

It was because of the misbegotten actions of some high-handed bishops (beginning with Bishop Asbury!) that led the 19th century church to codify what had only been a rule of the General Conference from 1792: every minister (and later, every lay person), if subject to a complaint, is guaranteed the right to trial, and of appeal.

This is a protection for clergy, not only against capricious bishops, but capricious Superintendents and capricious laity. In the past there have been jokes at the “clergy union.” In the case of trials, this is where we most have a “union” as clergy: the protection against unreasonable termination unless the reasons have been validated by members of a trial court in the Annual Conference in which we hold our membership.

In many ways, your desire has already been accomplished to a great degree by the decision in the Frank Schaefer trial: people on all sides of the dispute over blessing of same-sex relationships by our clergy are already realizing that trials should be truly an expedient of the last resort–which the Book of Discipline states. There are times when the behavior of clergy is such that terminations have to be done—though rarely over theologico-political disputes within the church. This latter category is specifically where trials should be avoided. The fact that Just Resolutions are being achieved in the two cases in your Annual Conference, and the Ogletree trial has been suspended indefinitely with orders from the Presiding Bishop to work out a Just Resolution, are all proof that the rush to trials has been sharply pulled back.

But just because we shouldn’t have trials over theologico-political disputes within the Church doesn’t mean getting rid of trials altogether. The alternative—capricious bishops, superintendents, and laity—is worse.

Thomas H. Griffith
Elder in Full Connection (Ret.)
California-Pacific Annual Conference

Thomas H. Griffith more than 7 years ago