May 5, 2004
By Linda Green*
(UMNS) — Unfaithfulness in marriage and not being celibate in
singleness can be considered chargeable offenses for United Methodist
a May 4 session, delegates attending the United Methodist Church’s 2004
General Conference clarified immorality and identified the practices
the church considers as violations of Christian teaching.
to the denomination’s top legislative assembly amended the paragraph in
the Book of Discipline outlining chargeable offenses to clarify the
language and to give bishops, pastors and other clergy and diaconal
ministers a list of offenses that could result in a trial.
delegates also expanded Paragraph 2702, which contains items for which
clergy may be charged. Delegates added “being a self-avowed practicing
homosexual, conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions and
performing same-sex wedding ceremonies” to the list of offenses that
might evoke a trial.
language speaks to the needs of our church at this time,” said Jon
Gray, a delegate from Kansas City, Mo., and newly elected member of the
denomination’s Judicial Council.
a vote of 455-445, the delegates changed Paragraph 2702 to state: “A
bishop, clergy member of an annual conference, local pastor, clergy on
honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may choose a
trial when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in 2702.4)
with one or more of the following offenses: a) immorality, including but
not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not being faithful
in a heterosexual marriage; b) practices declared by the United
Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching, including
but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or
conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing
same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
the decision does, Gib Walton of the Texas Conference says, is to place
the various disqualifications for ordination found in Paragraph 304
into the chargeable offense section to increase the clarity for clergy
of what constitutes an offense.
to the Rev. Linda Campbell, New England Conference, it is important to
be clear about every issue that is considered to be incompatible with
Christian teaching. “Incompatible is incompatible,” she said.
said the church is increasingly moving toward what has been
historically known as a period of inquisition, adding, “It has been very
important for the inquisitor to have a clear definition of what it is
the person ... is charged with.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.