Historical Homosexual Highlights

For many years, Concerned Methodists has been disturbed by the trend toward advocating the practice of homosexuality within our United Methodist Church; more recently, we are disturbed by a lack of truthfulness and deceit by some members of the clergy. We offer to you our analysis of this issue that is contained here in these historical occurrences that.would point toward efforts to legitimize this activity.

In an interview for an article our local paper on Concerned Methodists, I stated that "If it were possible to quantify all of the sexual sin in the world, by far the greatest would be heterosexual simply because there are so many more among the population, who are engaging in sex outside of marriage, adultery, etc." We need to keep in mind and to make clear that we are all sinners attempting to minister to other sinners. If it were possible to view with God and see that, for example, 76 % of the sum total of sexual sins committed were heterosexual, this presents the problem in the "all of us" rather than just the "them" light. The problem comes in that only between .8 % and 2.4 % of the population are homosexual. So you have a maximum of 2.4 % of the population committing 24 % (as an example) of the sexual sin, which is far disproportionately larger than the population as a whole.

Some of this information was published previously in a position paper. Some "tall steeple" r~urches have cut off their apportionments: FUMC in Joplin, FUMC in Marietta, GA; St. Mark's UMC in Findlay, OH; to name a few. We believe that we are entering a period of crisis when lay people can no lonoer fail to act, but must make a decision. What or Whom will we serve?

In light of the recent outcomes of same-sex ceremonies performed by UM pastors, it is helpful take a look at different homosexual milestones affecting our denomination:

  • 1972 General Conference. The following statement was added to the "Social Principles" document (after a 4 year study of homosexuality): "Homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth, who need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care.... Further we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured, although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." In 1992, it was passed again with a vote of 75% in favor.
    - United Methodist News Service (UMNS)
  • 1976 General Conference. Adopted reports which stopped any funding of gay/lesbian support groups with church money.
    -UMNS
  • 1980 General Conference. No significant action passed.
    - UMNS
  • 1982. Bishop Melvin E. wheatley appointed Julian Rush, a self-avowed homosexual, as associate pastor of St. Paul's UM Church in Denver. Wheatley said, "Homosexuality is a mysterious gift of God's grace," and "I clearly do not believe homosexuality is a sin." Charges that wheatley's stance had undermined "the authority of Holy Scripture" were filed by three Georgia churches. An investigative committee said in its final report that it found no "reasonable grounds" for accusing the bishop. Phyllis Jean Athey and Mary Jo Osterman were united in a covenanting service at the Wheadon UMC in the Northern Illinois Conf.
  • 1983 - 1984. Roy Howard Beck of the United Methodist Reporter wrote on homosexual activities discovered at the general board level, including that by a bishop. He was told by Rev. Troy D. Perry, founder of the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, that a substantial percentage of mainline Protestant agency leaders were homosexual." This was subsequently described in his book On Thin Ice. Phyllis Jean Athey and Mary Jo Osterman co-authored The Lesbian Relationship Handbook, published by Kinheart, an organization partially funded by the Northern Illinois Conference. A 3,500-member church in Colorado Springs "publicly censured" its bishop, Melvin E. Wheatley, for his active support of homosexual persons as UM ministers (Good News).
  • 1984 General Conference. Passed a "fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness" statement, which was included in Paragraph 402.2.(UMNS)
  • 1987. UM Bishop Finis A. Crutchfield died at age 70 of AIDS.
  • 1988. Phyllis Jean Athey, candidate for deacon in the UMC, shot and killed herself. Bishop J. R. Dewitt was critical of those who opposed her ordination on Biblical grounds for "causing this tragic act"; investigation pointed to the breakup with her lesbian "partner" Mary Jo Osterman. Opposition was surfaced to the partial funding, by the Northern Illinois Conference, of Kinheart Women's Center in Evanston, Illinois, believed to be a center for advocacy of homosexuality.

Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality
25O1 Clark Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
(919) 832-3316

Dear Colleague,
June 6, 1988

Looking at this letterhead you are probably wondering, What Now!, What can I do?. Could I support this group? We have wondered the same and have conic together over the past year with common pastoral concerns. You know full well how these times have stretched all of us in the ministry to look at issues that face our congregations, among them being human rights for all people. This issue of homouexuslity has knocked at the doors of all religious people.

The Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality is a group of concerned lai~' and clergy who desire to:
  • create a climate of support for basic human and civil rights for gays and lesbians:
  • develop an understanding of religious traditions. beliefs and values that shape attitudes toward homosexuality;
  • explore vays to provide pastoral care for lesbians, gay men and their families; and
  • establish a network of resources provide interaction and on-going support for those involved in this special ministry.

We invite you to join our efforts. We forrned this network as a result of the Raleigh City Council hearings on sexual discrimination last summer and to further the understanding of the passing of the anti-discrimination ordinnce last November. To this end we sponsored a conference in March of this year and anticipate another in 1989. We do this in hopes of futhering understanding of this issue within a religious context.

Since the early 1970's, tlie gay and lesbian community has observed events to celebrate Lesbian and Gay Pride. The event this year is a march planned for Saturday, June 25 in Raleigh. Among the events surrounding the march is a call to the North Carolina Legislature to:
  • adopt a statewide anti-discrimination ordinance regarding sexual orientation;
  • repeal the Crimes Against Nature Law (CAN);
  • protect persons with AIDS (PWA's) and HIV antibody positive individuals through legislation:
  • provide funds for:AIDS education;.
  • enact a "hate crimes" statistics law to include sexual orientation;
  • legalize and recognize lesbian and gay relationships:
  • preserve parental and adoptive rights of lesbians and gays: and
  • recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all people.

While we have particular ecclesial and theological stances upon which we concern ourselves. nonetheless these often invisible if not absent members of our congregation: ask for our support for these civil rights.

Please be as positive and supportive as you are able. With all the publicity surrounding the June 25 march in Raleigh, please keep in mind the sons and daughter: of your congregation who might be there, actually or in spirit. Your response to the media and to your members can keep this particular concern in a pastoral light, exhibiting the compassion that all sons and daughters of God deserve.

We will keep you informed of our efforts from time to time. Should you care to join us for our meeting or care to comment on our work, please ccntact us at the above address.

Peace,
[Signed]
Jimmy Creech, chairperson
Raleigh Religious Network
for Gay and Lesbian Equality

  • 1988 General Conference. Voted to prohibit ordination of homosexuals by a vote of 676 to 293, or 69.76%. Yet, a measure was pushed through allocating $200,000 for a "Committee to Study Homosexuality," weighted with pro-gays./ The General Council on Ministries (GCOM) conducted "An Analysis of Major Issues Addressed by the 1988 General Conference and a Comparison with Beliefs and Attitudes of Local Church Members." 50.87% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
  • 1989. Bishop C. P. Minnick of the North Carolina Conference sent a letter to pastors endorsing a two day conference sponsored by the Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality (RRNGLE); RRNGLE was chaired by Rev. Jimmy Creech, pastor of Fairmount UMC.
January 18, 1989

TO: UNITED METHODIST PASTORS
FROM: BISHOP C. P. MINNICK, JR.

My dear Sisters and Brothers:

On March 10-11 the Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality will sponsor a conference in Raleigh at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. This conference is designed to equip us as pastors to minister wore effectively and more meaningfully to gay men and lesbians and their families in our congregations and in the larger community. The topic for this conference will be "Homophobia in the Religious Community."

This letter is my endorsement of this event and my encouragement to you to avail yourselves of this opportunity to enhance your understanding of the fears, the hate and the hostility toward homosexual persons and their families. These emotions are expressed in so many painful and destructive ways in our churches and society. Homophobia is an urgent pastoral care issue which we need to address. You will be receiving more data and information about this conference from the Network in the near future.

May God continue to bless and use you as you seek to be in a ministry of caring concern to all persons in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.

CPMJr/vm

  • 1990. Theologian Richard John Neuhaus reported on a pro-homosexual campaign to change church teaching through the premise that Christian doctrine and morality are "fundamentally in error."/ The UM Commission on Christian unity and Interreligious Concerns voted to include homosexuals./ Dumbarton UMC of Washington, DC, decided against allowing a lesbian couple to wed after bowing to intense pressure.
  • 1992. A letter signed by 100 clergy and laity in Michigan supported homosexual and lesbian "holy union" services./ Saralyn Chesnut has been named to head the new office of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Student Life at (UM) Emory University./ UM Bishop M. G. Talbert, joined others in calling on President-elect Bill Clinton to lift the military ban on homosexuals.
  • 1992 General Conference. Rejected the both the majority report of the "Committee to Study Homosexuality" and the accompanying "augmentation Paragraph" of the "Social Principles" affirming "same-sex relationships"; a minority report of the "Committee to Study Homosexuality" reaffirmed the traditional church position.- UMNS
  • 1993. UM money went through the organization IMPACT to help support the Gay March on Washington./ In November, the "Re-Imagining" Conference was conducted which affirmed lesbians, bisexuals, and "trans-gendered" people, supported in part by UM money.
  • 1996 General Conference. Voted 577 - 378 (60.4%) to approve the church's current stance in paragraph 71F that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and 553 - 321 to add to the Book of Discipline's "Social Principles" a statement prohibiting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions. 15 bishops issued a statement expressing "pain" over the UMC's stance on homosexuality.
  • 1997. Rev. Jimmy Creech conducted a service of union for two women, who attended his church, FUMC in Omaha, on Sunday, Sept 14 at 2 P.M. Area Bishop Joel N. Martinez said he counseled Creech that "To proceed with the ceremony would place him in noncompliance with the UM Discipline and in conflict with previous church rulings." (UMNS)
    In 1997, Emory's board of trustees, which includes five United Methodist bishops [one of whom is Lindsay Davis of the North Georgia Conference], voted unanimously to allow same-sex ceremonies in the university chapel if the couple's faith permits it, and if the ceremony is conducted by a clergy person of that faith who has a direct tie to the university.(Alice Smith, Ex. Dir. of the Georgia UM Communications Council)
  • 1998.
    - March, 1998. Kearney, Nebraska: In a recent decision, Jimmy Creech, pastor of FUMC in Omaha, was acquitted of wrongdoing in his performance of a 1'covenanting ceremony" between two women alleged to be lesbians. He was found innocent by a church panel Friday, March 13th, of disobeying rules for performing a lesbian unity ceremony. Had he been found guilty by the jury of fellow ministers, Creech, a Goldsboro, NC native, could have lost his position at FUMC, and been forced to surrender his ministerial credentials. Jury foreman Grant Story ·said the vqte reflected the difficulty the church has experienced with the issue. We have struggled, no, agonized together in a spirit of love and our hope is that united Methodists everywhere will receive our verdict in that same spirit of love and respect, ' Story said after the verdict was read. Creech, who was suspended from the leadership of his congregation on Nov. 10, testified that he was simply serving the spiritual needs of two women church members. The Rev. Loren Ekdahl of Lincoln, who argued the church's side, said Creech went wrong by conducting the ceremony as if it were an official rite, 'We're not talking about a simple prayer or blessing here.'" (The Fayetteville Observer-Times, March 14, 1998) In a letter to the bishops dated March 17th, Dr. Maxie Dunmam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote, "If the practice of same-sex marriages is allowed to stand.. .our beloved denomination will be seriously fractured if not completely divided... if we have to call a special session of the General Conference to prevent such schismatic action, let's do so. My heart is heavy. I am grieving for the church."/ Thirty UN clergy have publicly declared that they will "celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender...." The "Proclaiming the Vision Comittee" invited UN clergy to sign such a statement.
    - From the INTERNET and Newscope, March 13, 1998

    - August,1998. The statement (pro-sccirbing same-sex ceremonies) is contained in the Social Principles section of the Book of Discipline, whereas the rest of the denomination's binding rules are contained in the main section of the book. However, the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination's supreme court, ruled...that the statement is enforceable. (10-21-28-71BP{291} By United Methodist News Service)
  • 1999:
    - January 16, 1999. 69 United Methodist pastors of the California-Nevada Annual Conference co-officiated in a holy union service for two women Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett, two members of Sacramento St. Mark's United Methodist Church, where the Rev. Donald Fado is pastor. Ellie is a member of the Conference Board of Trustees. Jeanne is conference lay leader.

    LIST OF PERSONS ACCUSED: John J. Auer, III, Brandon Austin, Donald L. Baldwin, Claire Beals-Nesmith, Robert W. Blaney, Diana Marie Bohn, Richard E. Bruner, Carol M. Carter, George Carter, Jerry Carter, John Chamberlin, Thomas Clark, Rolfe Conrad, Clifford Crummey, Donna Morrow DeCamp, Sharon Delgado, Nadine DeWittm, Steven Eatough-Smith, Janet S. Everhart, Renae Extrum-Fernandez, Donald Fado, David Franks, Glenn Fuller, Nobuaki Hanaoka, J. Richard Hart, Robert J. Hawthorne, Douglas Hayward, Thomas Hicks, Bruce Hilton, Virginia Hilton, Elbert Hoffman, Hubert L. Ivery, Alan H. Jones, Linda Kelly, Phillip Lawson, Stephen Lee, Charles Lerrigo, James Lockwood-Stewart, David MacMurdo, Theresa Mason, Victor W. McLane, Maggie McNaught, Douglas Monroe, Bob Moon, Mike Morizono, Mary Parker-Eves, Larry Patten, Ted Pecot, Cheri Pierre, Jay Pierce, Kathleen Ralston, Robert Rankin, Lynn Rhodes, Byron Roberts, Ellen Rowan, Robert Sanford, Doug Smith, Marlene Spilman, Judith Stone, Frank H. Stone, Gerald Summers, Paul Sweet, Margo Tenold, Harold A. Tillinghast, Richard Whitmore, Cecil Williams, Lee Williamson, Andrea Meek Winchester, Sargent Wright.(UMNS#157)

    - March 23, 1999. Bishop Talbert announces complaint against 69 pastors. Bishop Melvin G. Talbert announced today that he is referring to church counsel a complaint against 69 United Methodist pastors of the California-Nevada Annual Conference for their role in a Jan. 16 holy union service for two women. The church counsel, in this case the Rev. Paul Wiberg of Orinda, Calif., has the responsibility of signing the complaint and sending it to the Conference Committee on Investigation. That panel will decide whether to turn the complaint into charges, an action that could result in a church trial. The complaint was signed by two members of the bishop's cabinet. Talbert made the announcement at a noon (Pacific time) press conference in West Sacramento, Calif.

What follows is the full text of Talbert's announcement...[Commentary: it is interesting that a leader of our denomination would make a public statement in sympathy with the defendants and in opposition not only to the UMC itself along with the Book of Discipline, but more importantly against the Bible and statistics supportive of a healthy lifestyle - that of sexuality within a marriage between husband and wife. Allen O. Morris, Executive Director, Concerned Methodists]

PRESS RELEASE:
Office of the Bishop, San Francisco Area
The United Methodist Church
at United Methodist Center
West Sacramento, California
March 23, 1999 - 12:00 noon

STATEMENT

On Jan. 16, 1999, a number of clergy participated in a holy union celebration at the Sacramento Convention Center. These clergy celebrated a covenant between Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett, two well-known and respected members of Sacramento St. Mark's United Methodist Church, where the Rev. Donald Fado is pastor. Ellie and Jeanne are leaders beyond their local congregation. Ellie is a member of the Conference Board of Trustees. Jeanne is conference lay leader, one of the most influential offices held by a lay person in our denomination. Jeanne was also elected a delegate to our General Conference, the highest legislative body of our denomination. Ellie and Jeanne are honorable, loyal and dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. Like other Christians, they are living out their faith in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. With such affirmation of these two persons, why are we here today? We are here because Ellie and Jeanne are homosexuals. They have chosen to be public in their commitment to each other. They sought and received the blessing of their church by the action of their pastor, and others, who chose to officiate at their public celebration. For a variety of reasons, homosexuality has been and continues to be a very controversial subject in society and in churches, especially in our denomination. Some would draw the circle of full membership to include homosexuals without judgment. Others would limit their church participation and prohibit their full involvement. Thus, we have the continuing debate, especially around the issue of holy unions. The celebration of holy unions is not new in our denomination. This has been going on for decades. What makes this different is the action taken at our General Conference in 1996, which states: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." (Paragraph 65.C, 1996 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church) This language is very clear. However, a problem was created by the placement of that language in the Book of Discipline. It was placed in the section called "The Social Principles." As stated in the preface, "The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit. The Social Principles are a call to all members of the United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice."

In short, the Social Principles are not law. They have not been treated as such since the beginning of our denomination more than 200 years ago. And when asked to interpret this action of General Conference, I did so in the best tradition of our church. I indicated that such action was not law, and to violate that action would not constitute grounds for a chargeable offense. That interpretation set off a storm of controversy in this conference and in our denomination. Some went so far as to demand that I resign from my office as bishop. Of course, I did not resign. As a result of the Jimmy Creech case in Nebraska (he was acquitted after being tried for celebrating a holy union), my bishop colleagues in the South Central Jurisdiction appealed to the Judicial Council, the highest court in our denomination. Those bishops, and others, presented the argument that the intention of the General Conference was to enact a law to prohibit the celebration of homosexual unions. In August 1998, the Judicial Council ruled in favor of those who argued that the intent of General Conference was to enact a law.

So the Judicial Council ruling states: "The prohibitive statement in Paragraph 65.C of the 1996 Book of Discipline: 'Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches,' has the effect of church law, notwithstanding its placement in Paragraph 65.C and, therefore, governs the conduct of the ministerial office. Conduct in violation of this prohibition renders a pastor liable to a charge of disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church under Paragraph 2624 of the Discipline."

When this ruling was released, I expressed my sorrow and disappointment with it. However, as a bishop of the church, I stated that I would abide by the decision and uphold it, even though I disagreed with it. Now, I could have run for cover by using the law as a basis for remaining silent on this issue. In a sense the matter of law is settled. But my conscience wouldn't allow me to take the easy way out. I had to speak out against this act of injustice. So I will uphold the law, but I will not be silenced. I will continue speaking out against the law and will continue working to change the position of our church to be more in keeping with the teachings and compassion of Jesus. That is the position I stated in my Jan. 6 pastoral letter to clergy and lay members of the California-Nevada Conference. I further stated my personal belief that the position taken by our church on this issue is wrong, because such action infringes on the sacred pastoral role of one as priest and servant. I reaffirm that position today. I agree with those pastors who contend that such action is an intrusion into their priestly role as clergy to all their people.

Clergy are called on to do many things. They baptize children and adults. They bless homes, instruments, cars, parks, fowls, animals, buildings and various type events. In all such occasions, clergy persons are free to choose whether they will or will not perform such services. Yet when it comes to this one event of a holy union, it is prohibited. This is unconscionable! I contend that all clergy must be free to choose the appropriate pastoral responses they should make in the priestly roles. This must never become a political action. Today, it is homosexuality. What will the next issue be? Do you remember when the issue was race? Thus, the debate continues in society and in our churches. There are honorable people on both sides of this issue, which could split our church. In the face of such controversy, there is need for tolerance. I believe this is such a time when honorable Christians can agree to disagree, without allowing such an issue to separate us from God's table. The gospel of Jesus Christ reminds me that all sinners are invited to God's table. That being true, who, other than God, can decide to exclude some? Therefore, I refuse to treat as enemies those who chose to violate this church law, as an act of conscience. They are not our enemies. They are our sisters and brothers in Christ, in the same way that those are who hold opposing views. Biblical and theological debates are appropriate. But there comes a time when God's call to love must take precedence over any political or theological action or decision. I believe that is the case now with this issue. I will continue proclaiming that we all belong to God, and that we will have a space at God's table. Praise God!

However, it is my responsibility to announce that on this day, March 23, 1999, a complaint, signed by the Rev. Ardith Allread, dean of the cabinet, and by the Rev. David Bennett, superintendent for the district where the Jan. 16th event was held, has been presented to me listing the names of 69 persons. The complaint states, "These clergy persons, who claimed their participation was an act of conscience and pastoral ministry, acted in violation of the Judicial Council ruling with regard to Paragraph 65.C of the 1996 Book of Discipline. According to the ruling, these clergy persons failed to uphold the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church." The complaint further states: "The bishop and the cabinet, through the supervisory process as outlined in Paragraph 358.1 of the 1996 Book of Discipline, have attempted to reach resolution in the matter. Each district superintendent met with those persons who officiated at the service of holy union. Some plans for possible ways to achieve resolution were lifted up. None of the plans were acceptable to the persons listed in this complaint. Therefore, resolution was not achieved." These two district superintendents conclude the complaint, stating, " . . . despite our theological and pastoral disagreement with this area of church law, a complaint of disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church (Paragraph 2624.1(e) of the 1996 Book of Discipline) is filed against the following clergy . . . " (See list at entry for January 16, 1999).

As a bishop of the church, I have accepted this complaint from my colleagues. I join them in stating I personally disagree with this area of church law. Nevertheless, it is my intention to refer to this complaint as a judicial complaint to the counsel for the church pursuant to Paragraph 358.1 of the 1996 Book of Discipline. The person I have appointed as counsel for the church is the Rev. Paul Wiberg, pastor, St. Mark's United Methodist Church, Orinda, Calif. It will be his responsibility to sign the complaint and forward the same to the Conference Committee on Investigation. If that committee sees fit to do so, it may turn the complaint into charges which may result in a trial. And if or when that happens, I shall be prepared to convene a pool of 35 or more elders appointed by the district superintendents, from which a jury will be selected. And, I will place the charges in the hands of a colleague bishop of my choosing who will preside over the trial.

This is a very painful day for me. The persons on both sides of this issue are my sisters and brothers. They are faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Yet, there are honest differences in opinions regarding this controversial issue in our church. Those colleagues named in this complaint have chosen to challenge this unjust law. I understand their wishes. I am a disciple of the civil rights protests. From my own experiences, I can appreciate acts of conscience and acts of civil disobedience. Therefore, my referring this complaint is without prejudice to enable these colleagues to have their day in a court of peers. My prayer is that in the due process to follow, clergy peers will seek to do justice, and to act in a way that is consistent with the teachings and compassion of Jesus. I trust they will hold before them the vision for our church that is inclusive, with diversity and acceptance as its hallmarks. May God bless all of us as we seize this moment as an opportunity to model how Christians should deal with controversy in our lives and in our churches.

Presented by: Melvin G. Talbert, Resident Bishop
- [(615)742-5470*Nashville,Tenn. 10-21-28-71BP{157} By United Methodist News Service]

March 26, 1999. Dell convicted in same-sex ceremony. Following the ruling [by the United Methodist Judicial Council], the Rev. Greg Dell of Chicago performed a (same-sex) ceremony and was found guilty in a church trial. The penalty was handed down late on March 26, after two long days of testimony and deliberation in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church. Dell, who is pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, was convicted of a single charge of "disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church." He is appealing that verdict and the penalty - a suspension that goes into effect July 5. Despite impending suspension, the Rev. Greg Dell has declared that signing a pledge to no longer perform same-sex union ceremonies would be a "violation" of his ministry. The United Methodist pastor's comment came after a 13-member jury of his peers found him guilty of conducting such a ceremony last September and decided that he should be suspended on July 1 until he signed a pledge or until the church no longer prohibited the action. Retired Bishop Jack Tuell, who presided over the trial, later amended the date to July 5 to allow Dell to perform a July 3 wedding ceremony. Despite the verdict, the bishop declared that he continues to consider Dell "an exemplary pastor whose record of faithfulness is, in my opinion, beyond reproach." (Bishop Joe) Sprague, who filed the charge, said he had hoped to frame it in a way to provide a "teachable moment" for the church. While he believes that occurred, he added that the trial also has shown the world "the box we have put ourselves into in this denomination". During the trial, (counsel for the church) The Reverend Stephen Williams based his case along legal grounds, saying that Dell had explicitly violated Paragraph 65c in the United Methodist Book of Discipline which states: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." Williams charged, and Dell agreed, that despite the ruling a month earlier, the pastor had performed the Sept. 19 union ceremony between Keith Eccarius and Karl Reinhardt at Broadway United Methodist Church. Along with disregarding the authority of the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's highest legislative body, Dell ignored the decision of its highest court, the church counsel said. Williams also accused the pastor of failing the order of elders and pointed to Paragraph 311 in the Discipline, which calls the order a "covenant community within the church to mutually support, care for and hold accountable its members for the sake of the life and mission of the church." The prosecution called three witnesses in presenting its case: Bishop George Bashore, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Dell himself, and Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of the Chicago Area. Williams made his case by stressing the Judicial Council's ruling last August and by emphasizing "the plain meaning of the Discipline."...Dell said he would conduct no liturgical acts as a political witness during that period. However, under cross-examination by Williams, Dell said he would not promise to refrain from performing same-sex union ceremonies during that period. He has conducted 33 such ceremonies in the past 18 years. (UMNS#168, March 29, 1999; New York; 10-21-71BP{168}) {The following commentary was offered by a pastor who had observed the proceedings: "The counsel for the church, allowed without objection, three homosexuals to share the validity of their lifestyle. One came from a reformed church where theology was done by using "scripture, scripture, scripture, and scripture." The other was the son of a Missouri Synod pastor who has come to accept his son's lifestyle. All of this presentation of a testimony of the validity of the homosexual lifestyle was presented without objection by the counsel of the church.
E-mail dated Sun, 28 Mar 1999}

April 15, 1999. Georgia church withholds funds amid talk of split. ATLANTA (UMNS) -- The board of stewards of Marietta First United Methodist Church has voted to withhold all of the financial support that it typically provides at the conference and denominational levels, as some members talk openly about leaving the church and forming a new congregation. The 108-56 vote took place April 11 and applies to all of the "apportionment" dollars that have been requested of Marietta First by the larger church. With 5,302 members, the church has the fourth-largest United Methodist congregation in Georgia. Earlier this year, Bishop Lindsey Davis announced that the Rev. Charles Sineath, 60, would not be reappointed to Marietta First after 22 years. Since then Sineath has announced his plans to retire in June from the United Methodist ministry.

The decision to withhold all apportionments, except the pastor's pension, was an expansion of an earlier decision by the board of stewards not to pay several "general church" funds that support the work of the church on the denominational level....The church's total apportionment.

The Officers and Directors of Concerned Methodists, Inc.
P. O. Box 2864
Fayetteville, NC 28302-2864
Phone: 910/488-4379 FAX: 910/488-5090
E-mail: concmths@infionline.net

 

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