A Statement on Ordination Standards From the Renewal and Reform Coalition

on May 7, 2019

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.  

  1. Comment by Andrew Hughes on May 7, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you for the clarification. Of course, this won’t be enough for progressives or centrists.

  2. Comment by Diane on May 7, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    LOL! What constitutes “practicing” sexuality? What constitutes “behavior”? What constitutes “sexual behavior”? Has it not occurred to conservatives that when lgbtq people are denied freedom of expression, they find each other anyway? They may not be engaging in what conservatives define as “sex”, but they innately know how to practice their sexuality – simply by making eye contact, body language, etc. (some call it gaydar, but these are all sexuality-driven behaviors). We now have artificial intelligence apps that, when presented with a male face, uses algorithms to determine whether the individual identifies as gay or straight. It has a 90% success rate. Yep, it’s gaydar technology that’s better than human gaydar). ! Long before the internet dating apps and personal ads, lesbian, gay, and bisexual folks have been able to practice their sexuality – using behavioral signaling – right under the noses of unsuspecting straight people. Many years ago, I invited a gay friend to my mainline church. When we left after worship, he confided the young married man sitting near us (with wife and baby) was gay and couldn’t stop flirting (using his eyes). A few years later, a different gay friend attended church with me and he, too, mentioned this same young married man was flirting with him the entire time (eye-flirting). I’d given him no prompting or said anything before attending. It convinced me that gaydar does indeed exist and gay people “practice” their sexuality, just as heterosexual people do. There are varied sexual behaviors that humans use to sexually communicate with each other, driven by one’s orientation. Intimate, physical sex is not necessary to “practice” one’s sexuality or behave sexually and consistent with one’s orientation. Insisting on using the terms “practicing” in the Book of Discipline or trying to define “sexual behavior” reflects a need to control. Trying to limit what constitutes sexual behavior and practice is ignorant and simplistic. Conservatives can’t control the same-sex flirting and bodily communication that goes on outside of the bedroom. Do conservatives believe God condones ways outside the bedroom in which lesbian, gay, and bisexual people “practice” their sexuality , sexually “behave”, or sexually relate to others? Is there only one particular
    act that constitutes sexual “practice,” “behavior,” or “relationship”? And if so, is it equally applied to heterosexual people?

  3. Comment by Steve on May 7, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Jesus already covered the subject you are making much too much of:
    “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
    Therefore, the behavior you have described in your post is in fact sinful; its not the close call you pretend it is. And yes, its sin when straight people do it too. Jimmy Carter once famously admitted to the sin in question; his wife declined to comment.

  4. Comment by Mary Rivera on May 8, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Again, she is speaking of the congregation. The issue is 1000% CLERGY and how they misinterpret church law, the Discipline, and the Bible. Their arrogant disobedience will come to a halt. Don’t ask, don’t tell will be a violation for other clergy now.

  5. Comment by Mary Rivera on May 8, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Again, she is speaking of the congregation. The issue is 1000% CLERGY and how they misinterpret church law, the Discipline, and the Bible. Their arrogant disobedience will come to a halt. Don’t ask, don’t tell will be a violation for other clergy now. We will now operate like the United Methodist Church, not the military!

  6. Comment by Diane on May 8, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    So flirting is practicing one’s sexuality. In the case of same-sex flirting, such would deny ordination? Since it flies under the radar, seems lots of folks would get a pass for “practicing” or acting upon their same-sex sexuality, as long as its never spoken of or openly acknowledged. Reminds me of the resolution passed in a region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where conservatives voted to deny ordination to anyone who openly conveyed they were homosexual.

    Seems deception is what conservatives truly prefer.

  7. Comment by John on May 8, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual; or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020, 1341.

    Diane, that’s the way the BoD will read as of Jan. 1, 2020. How do you fit flirting into that definition?

  8. Comment by td on May 8, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    I can feel your pain, Diane. I hope you can find some healing in your life and find some peace. The issues you raise are probably better addressed to God than to the UMC. Only God can provide that peace.

  9. Comment by Diane on May 7, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    I’d be interested in a conservative response to technology being used to determine one’s sexuality based totally on facial structure/appearance and not any “behavior”. The discussion re widespread use of this now-developed technology has raised ethical questions, as it’s been shown to have much greater accuracy than humans to identify a complete stranger’s sexuality (humans have a 65% accuracy rate in determining another’s innate sexual attraction), the app has 90%or higher when given a male image).

    If your daughter is engaged to a man that current highly-accurate artificial intelligence has identified as most probably same-sex attracted or oriented, , would you advise your daughter of this finding? Would you discourage your daughter in marrying the man? Would you ignore the technology’s finding? If you would ignore the finding, do you routinely ignore highly accurate tech analysis of imaging related to a medical diagnosis and care?

    Will ordination and marriage eventually rest on technology findings? If a clergy opposite-sex married couple seeks fertility treatment and technology (testing of chromosomes, sex-related, imaging of internal reproductive organs) reveals that one spouse is intersex and infertile, would the church regard this as a same-sex marriage (this actually happened to a clergy couple in a mainline denomination where the wife was found to be intersex, having internal male reproductive organs and elevated male testosterone levels. The findings confirmed what the wife felt and had long kept secret: that she was actually male. She decided to legally identify as male from thereon…there are states that recognize intersex people as being a distinct medical class wherein birth-assigned sex can naturally err….a medical diagnosis of intersex allows such persons to change the gender marker recorded at birth). How would conservatives define such a marriage? Same sex? Opposite sex? And given that estimates suggest 1 in 500 is born intersex, would conservative support pre-marital testing to determine if either intended spouse is intersex? Would the marriage be recognized if one spouse is intersex?

  10. Comment by Steve on May 7, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Uh, there’s lots of pictures of Keith Richards where its easy to tell he drank and/or took drugs; the looks were a consequence of the behavior. It’s not like he was born permanently intoxicated.

  11. Comment by Steve on May 7, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    “In a third experiment, Leuner completely blurred out the faces so the algorithms couldn’t analyze each person’s facial structure at all.
    And guess what? The software was still able predict sexual orientation. In fact, it was accurate about 63 per cent for males and 72 per cent for females, pretty much on par with the non-blurred VGG-Face and facial morphology model.
    It would appear the neural networks really are picking up on superficial signs rather than analyzing facial structure. ”
    The infamous AI gaydar study was repeated – and, no, code can’t tell if you’re straight or not just from your face
    What are these pesky neural networks really looking at?
    By Katyanna Quach The Register 5 Mar 2019 at 08:17

  12. Comment by John Smith on May 8, 2019 at 6:42 am

    You talk alot but you don’t even answer the questions you ask much less the original questions. Your rearguard action is of little consequence and is getting boring and repetitious. You need to step up your game or people will just start skipping your posts.

  13. Comment by xnlover on May 7, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    How could the very people who wrote the incompatibility clause into the Book of Discipline in the first place “inadvertently omit” a key part of what they themselves wrote, have valued highly, and have used as the foundation for more and more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and BOD material over, lo, these last 47 years? I guess dementia has finally set into the conservative United Methodist community.

  14. Comment by Gary Bebop on May 7, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Those who mock inadvertent errors in transcription of a document must be ignorant of Methodist conferencing. Inadvertent errors, editorial errors, omissions (“typos”) are common to our (Fallen) human processes. When we recognize them, we correct and move on. To obsess about these quodlibets is a false scruple.

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