Let’s Get It Over With
Two weeks ago to the day I wrote that the matter of how we United Methodists minister to and with sexual minorities was all over except for some formal work. With the news this morning that Rev. Frank Schaefer will retain his orders, despite having performed the wedding of his son and his son’s now husband, I am more convinced than ever that formal, legal change within the United Methodist Church will come; I am more convinced than ever that “the facts on the ground” – there is no longer any penalty to be paid for violating the Book of Discipline when it concerns ministry to and with gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, queers, and other sexual minorities – make it clear that, from the Council of Bishops through the Judicial Council to local districts and churches, the decision has been made. – Me, “It’s All Over But The Whining II: The Schaefering,” October 27, 2014
The complaint against retired United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert — who blessed the union of two men in violation of church law — has ended in what the denomination calls a just resolution.
The resolution, agreed to by all parties in this complaint, means that Talbert will not face a church trial or possible loss of his clergy credentials.
Instead, the joint resolution agreement calls on all parties to follow the Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church’s law book, and urges the Council of Bishops to do more work related to the denomination’s longtime debate around human sexuality. The resolution also expresses regret “over harm to gay and lesbian sisters and brothers, and all those involved, through the complaint process.” – Heather Hahn, “Complaint Against Bishop Talbert Resolved”, umc.org, January 5, 2015
I said it in October. I’ll say it again: There is not now any practical enforcement mechanism for the anti-LGBT language in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. While Bishop Scott Jones might well insist he would put all the clergy in his Conference on trial, that is grandstanding, largely since a trial is only one of many possible outcomes to a legal complaint against a United Methodist clergy person who performs a same-sex wedding in violation of the Discipline. For all intents and purposes, the debate over the matter is done.
Except, of course, we still have to go through the painful process of stripping the language from the Discipline. This would, of course, open up the matter of the ordination of sexual minorities, but that is neither here nor there. I wrote two posts back in October noting that, as they are titled, it’s all over but the whining. And, boy, was there some whining. Drew’s just mad the system worked the way it’s supposed to work, but didn’t come to his preferred outcome. There will be more of this, I am sure. And that’s to be expected. The issue is so heated it even makes New Testament Scholars/Academic Deans write like Jonah Goldberg.
It should be clear to most everyone involved this decision has only reiterated the position of the United Methodist Church on the matter of clergy performing same-sex weddings: it’s OK. While this might heat up the rhetoric over the next few months, it doesn’t change one bit the facts on the ground, which is what really matters.
Oh, and you clergy who still think being gay is icky and that God agrees with you, go ahead and don’t marry those couples who come to you. No one is forcing anyone to do or not do anything, which is the beauty of removing the anti-LGBT language from the Discipline. It opens up clergy to be Biblically obedient, rather than toe a bigoted line that violates both their consciences and their sense of what it is to be ordained to Word, Sacrament, and Order.
An interesting, but not necessarily unexpected, outcome that has made my day.