One United Methodist congregation has reportedly “experienced the joy of reconciliation” with a clergyman it “rejected” 35 years ago for allegedly practicing homosexuality. First United Methodist Church of Kenosha in the Wisconsin Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) signed a declaration to this effect, hosted a “service of reconciliation,” and conducted a “liturgy of repentance” on February 5, 2017.
In this liturgy, the Kenosha congregation apologized to their former pastor Rev. Kevin A. Johnson for their part in his removal. Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) – an unofficial caucus group that purports to affirm ordination and greater inclusion for LGBTQ persons in the UMC – tweeted part of the liturgy. One section of the liturgy proceeded as follows (with bolded congregational responses original to the text):
For more than three decades, the sadness of a past action by our church has been with us.
In 1981, our leaders chose exclusion over inclusion: causing suffering to one we loved, confusion to ones we embraced, and distractions from the core of our Christian missions to “love one another.”
Now, we are ready to say we are sorry for those actions.
We turn from them to embrace the Rev. Kevin A. Johnson in this moment of reconciliation and renewal. We embrace him and his husband, Michael, as our friends in beloved community forever.
— RMNetwork (@rmnetwork) February 5, 2017
Although Johnson was removed from ministry at Kenosha, he returned on Sunday to participate in the service. The declaration and service at Kenosha came about after the congregation joined RMN last year. RMN lauded the news, posting the declaration and a short video online.
In the video, Johnson said the entire process was the first such one that he was aware of. He said he hoped it would “encourage other people in other churches to do the same kind of reconciliation, because I’m not the only person that got asked to leave a church because they were gay or lesbian.”
The congregation expressed a similar sentiment for their denomination in the declaration. “We call upon churches who have rejected clergy and ordination candidates based on sexual orientation to reconcile themselves with one another and with God,” the declaration reads.
Kenosha may have unilaterally attempted to reconcile with their former pastor. But the UMC’s Book of Discipline still unambiguously states that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
This provision has been a part of the Book of Discipline since 1984, despite repeated attempts by progressives to overturn it at General Conference. While formal prohibitions against homosexual practice have remained a part of the Book of Discipline since 1972, although orthodox teaching about human sexuality was certainly pervasive within the UMC before then.Google+