The Renewal and Reform Coalition is a coalition of several theologically orthodox renewal caucuses within the United Methodist Church, including IRD’s UMAction program.
Since the 2019 General Conference and the subsequent ruling from the Judicial Council, there have been questions and some controversy about one of the provisions of the Traditional Plan. Some have taken that provision to mean that the church seeks to exclude all persons who experience same-sex attractions, whether they act on those attractions or not. This confusion is increased by those who insist on advocating for ending discrimination “based on sexual orientation.” The United Methodist Church does not discriminate based on “orientation.” Grounded in the clear teaching of Scripture and the unequivocal witness of Tradition, the church deems certain behaviors to be contrary to God’s will and therefore disqualifying for leadership. The following statement has been issued by the Coalition in an attempt to clear up the confusion.
From the very beginning of the 45-year conflict within United Methodism over marriage and sexual ethics, the issue has never been about temptation or attractions. It has always centered on behavior. With that clear focus, the Traditional Plan continues to create standards for practice, not orientation or attraction, despite what some are declaring.
One of the provisions of the Traditional Plan recently approved by the Judicial Council amended Discipline ¶ 415.6 to prohibit bishops from consecrating a bishop or commissioning or ordaining clergy who are “self-avowed homosexuals.” The omission of the word “practicing” is being taken by some as the Traditional Plan’s intention to change the church’s longstanding policy that it is the practice of homosexuality, not the attraction to persons of the same sex, which is contrary to Christian teaching.
The Renewal and Reform Coalition supported the Traditional Plan and some of our leaders submitted it. In this particular petition (90036), the word “practicing” was inadvertently omitted when the plan was submitted. It was never our intention to change our church’s policy of what behavior is acceptable for clergy. Our attempts to correct the omission in Petition 90036 in St. Louis were thwarted by the delay tactics used by opponents of the Traditional Plan.
In light of the confusion caused by this omission, the Renewal and Reform Coalition advocates the following:
1) We plan to introduce revisions to the Traditional Plan to the 2020 General Conference, including adding the word “practicing” to ¶ 415.6.
2) Until that correction is made, we urge that no complaints be filed against any bishop who consecrates, ordains, or commissions a “self-avowed homosexual” who is not engaged (or intending to engage) in the practice.
The Coalition affirms the biblical understanding that sexual relations are reserved exclusively for the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. We acknowledge that all of us experience attractions, desires, or temptations to transgress the boundaries God has established for human behavior in the area of sexuality, as well as in many other dimensions of life. To be tempted or attracted is not a sin, but to embrace that temptation and act upon it leads us into behavior that violates God’s will for us. We have great respect for those who choose by God’s grace to live in celibacy in order to honor the teachings of Scripture and the church, as well as for those who pursue and by God’s grace experience the depth of healing that can lead to healthy opposite-sex marriage and family.
To reiterate, The United Methodist Church’s long-standing policy is that the practice, not the attraction, of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The Renewal and Reform Coalition supports this long-standing policy and urges all United Methodists to act consistently with it.
(UPDATE: The Committee on Correlation and Editorial Revision [CCER] has officially recognized that the omission of the word “practicing” was indeed an error, and so has added the word “practicing” back into the single enacted petition in question. This is reflected in the new updates to the UMC Book of Discipline. In sum, the 2019 General Conference has resulted in NO change in our church law regarding clergy who are same-sex-attracted but single and committed to celibacy.