Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
April 24, 2017
Contact: Jeff Walton office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org
“At stake is whether or not the United Methodist Church will be a denomination in which our promises to each other have any value.”
-UMAction Director John Lomperis
Washington, DC—United Methodism’s top court will hear multiple cases involving human sexuality during a three day meeting scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Among the cases is a question brought by the church’s South-Central Jurisdiction about the legality of electing a candidate for bishop who is in a same-sex civil marriage. The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s UM Action program has submitted legal arguments to the Judicial Council. A ruling could be handed down as soon as the Judicial Council’s meeting concludes on Friday.
The United Methodist Church declares homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” in its governing Book of Discipline. The church does not ordain “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” but some bishops overlook this restriction on a technicality that non-celibate lesbian and gay candidates for ordination have not “self-avowed” their sexual practices.
In 2016, the denomination’s liberal Western Jurisdiction elected the first openly partnered gay bishop in the 13 million-member global church’s history. Pastor Karen Oliveto, who is married to another woman, was consecrated a bishop in July and later appointed to oversee the Denver-based Mountain Sky Episcopal Area.
The Western Jurisdiction comprises only 2 percent of the denomination’s members and has led the decline in U.S. Methodist membership. In contrast, the global church has experienced rapid growth in Africa, where more than a third of church members reside and generally hold traditional views on sexuality and marriage.
IRD’s United Methodist Action Director John Lomperis, an elected delegate to the 2016 General Conference, commented:
“The United Methodist Church officially affirms biblical standards for sexual self-control. Our prohibition on clergy sexually active outside of monogamous, man-woman marriage is consistently affirmed by a growing global majority within the church.
“The Oliveto case is a historic, head-on collision between the denomination’s official biblical standards and the reality of how leaders in its Western Jurisdiction have for years refused to enforce these standards.
“The key question with the Oliveto case and others is whether or not certain regions have the right to basically establish their own standards for marriage and sex, rather than having to follow those of the whole denomination.
“When they chose to be ordained with us, United Methodist clergy in every region, including Ms. Oliveto, vowed to uphold these standards. At stake is whether or not the United Methodist Church will be a denomination in which our promises to each other have any value.”