A woman in a same-sex marriage has been rejected for ordination in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC).
Tara “T.C.” Morrow of Washington, D.C. had sought commissioning as a deacon and had obtained the positive recommendation of the local body responsible for certifying candidates, known as the Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM). A vote of two-thirds of clergy members of the Annual Conference was also required, but Morrow did not receive the necessary number of votes. Commissioning is a necessary prerequisite stage prior to ordination.
The clergy decision to reject Morrow’s candidacy is an unusual one: following a positive recommendation by the local conference BoOM, final votes of the session of all clergy in a conference are often a rubber stamp. The development complicates, even in a liberal region of the church, a narrative advanced by UMC progressives that denominational standards on marriage and sexuality can be disregarded.
At the recent UMC General Conference in Portland, Oregon which met May 10-20, delegates voted to refer all resolutions regarding human sexuality to a specially appointed commission proposed by the church’s bishops. The commission will convene and report back with proposals prior to the 2020 General Conference scheduled to meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
LGBT caucus groups working within the UMC have suggested a moratorium on enforcing marriage and sexuality standards until Bishops report back.
Morrow is a member of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. and is employed with the progressive advocacy group National Religious Campaign against Torture (NRCAT). Both NRCAT and an unofficial local LGBT caucus, Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists (BWARM) have released statements praising Morrow and lamenting the result of the clergy vote.
The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline forbids ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” but the Baltimore-Washington BoOM announced last month that it would no longer consider sexual practices among its evaluation criteria. It was one of a handful of liberal annual conference BoOMs, including New York, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois, to formally announce they would disregard UMC ordination policy.
Some orthodox clergy in the annual conference had, prior to the vote on Morrow’s commissioning, released an open letter of opposition in response to the BoOm statement.
“Every person commissioned and ordained for ministry has made a commitment before the annual conference session to ‘preach and maintain’ the doctrine and uphold the discipline of the church,” the letter states. “Each has made a vow at their ordination to ‘be loyal to The United Methodist Church’” by “accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and accepting the authority of those who are appointed to supervise your ministry.”
The letter writers argue that clergy of the conference are now being called upon by BoOM, “the very body which is charged with watching over the integrity of the vows of ordination,” to violate these vows.
Petitions to delete UMC requirements that clergy abstain from homosexual practice and/or other forms of extra-marital sex were defeated in the Faith and Order committee at General Conference.