The United Methodist Church's highest court has affirmed a bishop's decision to overrule a regional church body's resolution that called for defying the Mainline denomination's position on homosexuality.
During the summer, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar of the New England Conference overruled a "non-conformity" resolution calling for the regional body to reject the Book of Discipline's position that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."
The United Methodist Judicial Council concluded last Friday in Decision 1327 to affirm Bishop Devadhar's overruling of the non-conformity resolution.
Decision 1327 specifically quoted and cited the portions of the Book of Discipline pertaining to homosexuality to affirm the bishop's overruling.
"Paragraph 304.3 states clearly that 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.' Paragraph 341.6 prohibits conducting of homosexual unions. Paragraphs 613.19 and 806.9 prohibit funding of the United Methodist Church to be directed to any use that would 'promote the acceptance of homosexuality...'" read the Decision.
"The portions of paragraph 1 of the affirmation that relate to certification, ordination, and appointment are in violation of paragraph 304.3. The provisions of the affirmation relating to homosexual unions violate paragraph 341.6. Similarly, the funding provisions of the affirmation violate paragraphs 613.19 and 806.9. Thus, all of these portions of the 'Action of Non-Conformity' are in direct violation of Church law and illegal under the relevant disciplinary provisions."
Although the UMC Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is wrong, many within the Mainline denomination want the Church to become more accepting of the LGBT community.
After the latest General Conference meeting failed to change the Book of Discipline's language on homosexuality, some regional bodies, known as annual conferences, decided to pass resolutions openly defying the Church's position on the issue.
In July, Devadhar overruled one of these non-conformity resolutions, which the New England Conference passed by a vote of 445 to 179.
"The issue in the instance matter is whether it is unlawful for an annual conference to pass an affirmation stating in advance that it will not follow the Discipline," reasoned Devadhar.
"It has been suggested that the words of the affirmation are purely precatory and would only be a violation once an actual action is taken. I rule that this affirmation is not precatory because it mandates that illegal actions be taken and, as such, is a violation of the Discipline."
Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization advocating for the UMC to change it's Book of Discipline to find that homosexuality is compatible with Christian doctrine and allow for non-celibate homosexuals to be ministers, released a statement Sunday saying that the Judicial Council's decision "was expected."
"Much of the resolution was ruled 'out of order' by Bishop Devadhar earlier this fall and the Judicial Council affirmed his decision," stated RMN.
"We applaud the faithfulness of the people of the New England Annual Conference who recognize that the Gospel calls us to being ruled 'out of order' in relationship to any form of discrimination."