Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to ministry candidates in the Pacific Northwest Conference earlier this month in response to the actions taken by the 2019 Special Session of General Conference late in February. The video that accompanies this post was produced to accompany the board’s original statement, referenced in this letter, in 2016.
Our hearts are broken by the decisions made by the General Conference at the Special Session, especially the harm that has been done and now continues to be done to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, and asexual candidates, clergy, friends, families and neighbors.
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted at this Special Session to pass nine petitions fromTraditionalist Plan for its future direction. These petitions retain and reinforce prohibitions against same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly LGBTQIA persons and it strengthens punitive measures against clergy who violate the Book of Discipline in these matters.
As you are probably aware, the traditional plan was largely declared unconstitutional by the Church’s Judicial Council. What remained were these nine petitions, some amended, others not. One of the last acts of the General Conference was to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision concerning the constitutionality of what passed. We will have to wait and see what emerges from the Judicial Council meeting in April.
While we are aware that these petitions, if they clear the Judicial Council, place more restrictions on Boards of Ordained Ministries, we reassure you that the actions of General Conference do not and will not change our statement or our current practice, which reads as follows:
Statement on Ministry Candidates, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity
Adopted May 2016.
We, the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Pacific Northwest Conference, hold our clergy and candidates to the highest standards of faithful and holy living. For some time, our practice has been to affirm that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live up to our high standards for fitness, readiness, and effectiveness in ministry. We will continue to give all candidates equal consideration, as we believe it is the most faithful way to do our work.
At this critical time in the history of The United Methodist Church, we believe it is important to state explicitly how we have been operating implicitly. We stand in solidarity with and fully support all of our colleagues and candidates in ministry who endeavor to transform our world through God’s grace.
We understand if these actions have caused you to question your vocation in the United Methodist Church and encourage you to reach out to your support network. We have also included our contact information and would be glad to hear any concerns or answer any questions that we can. There are additional resources on our website to locate helping professionals.
With God’s grace and peace,
Rev. Lara Bolger, Chair, Board of Ordained Ministry
Rev. Geoff Helton, Vice-Chair, Board of Ordained Ministry