Bishop Jim Dorff, Institute on Religion and Democracy, John Lomperis, LGBT, marriage, Mary Ann Kaiser, Reconciling Ministries Network, Rev. John Elford, Southwest Texas Conference of the UMC, UM Insight, United Methodist, University UMC in Austin
By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)
Once again activists seeking to overthrow biblical standards for sexual self-control in the United Methodist Church are not letting the truth get in the way of their orchestrated, well-funded campaign to undermine and paralyze our denomination.
The official United Methodist position in our governing Book of Discipline could hardly be clearer. We officially say that “sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” that our church “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (Paragraph 161F). We also define marriage as a “covenant … between a man and a woman” and even “support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman” (Paragraph 161B). Clergy candidates “shall … agree for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness of the gospel and in consideration of their influence as clergy, to make a complete dedication of themselves to the highest ideals of the Christian life as set forth in” those statements (Paragraph 310.2d). All ordination candidates must “agree to exercise responsible self-control by … fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” (Paragraph 304.2). And as if this was not clear enough, we also say that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church” (Paragraph 304.3).
Yet knowing all this, a partnered lesbian activist named Mary Ann Kaiser, chose to go ahead and pursue ordination anyway. Knowing full well about her openly active lesbianism, University United Methodist Church (UUMC) in Austin, Texas, where Kaiser serves on staff as the unordained Youth Director and Justice Associate, chose to challenge United Methodist standards by endorsing her candidacy for deacon’s ordination. UUMC has also chosen to deliberately violate church law by formally affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which is probably best known for demanding church endorsement of varieties of extramarital sex (especially but not limited to homosexual practice) in angrily disruptive protests of United Methodist General Conferences.
In addition to her professional social-justice activism and efforts to influence youth, Miss Kaiser also blogs frequently for RMN.
Even a sympathetic secular media profile last month readily understood that “[s]ince she plans to exchange marital vows with [her lesbian partner] in Maryland in the fall, Kaiser is barred by UMC law” from ordination.
Miss Kaiser was “open about her [lesbian] relationship” with her district committee on ministry. But with her district being known within the Southwest Texas Annual Conference for its concentration of heterodox clergy, the District Committee on Ministry voted to kick the problem upstairs to the conference board of ordained ministry, endorsing Kaiser’s candidacy despite her unwillingness to live by the basic standards of the clergy covenant.
In a pattern reminiscent of an unruly child testing his parents in a silly battle of wills, the aforementioned RMN appeared to dare church officials to do something with an announcement in April that Kaiser was indeed a candidate for ordained ministry, is a partnered lesbian, will be legally wed to her partner at RMN’s upcoming fall convocation. For good measure, they also threw in a picture of some public display of affection between Kaiser and her partner. This was also promoted on the liberal “UM Insight” website, which often includes posts from liberal caucus activists.
A couple of days later, the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church called attention to this and asked “Anyone want to call on her Bishop and Board of Ordained Ministry to uphold the Discipline and Scripture itself?”
Thankfully, the conference Board of Ordained Ministry voted to discontinue Miss Kaiser’s candidacy, an action sustained by the clergy session of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference in the first week of June.
Now following the lead of the well-funded RMN and their powerful secular allies, some activists are feigning to be shocked, horrified, and outraged. In an e-mail to supporters, RMN strongly claims that Kaiser “was treated inhumanly,” without specifying how.
RMN seemed well-prepared by launching a Twitter campaign to protest the ordination denial very soon after it happened, instructing online activists to spread RMN’s inaccurate talking point that Kaiser was denied ordination for “simply identifying as a lesbian” while completely ignoring the realities of her practice and the fact that her same-sex attractions would not automatically bar her from ordination if she were willing to abide by basic Christian standards of self-control.
I tried to set the record straight in a recent interview with the Christian Post.
Shortly thereafter, Rev. John Elford, the pastor of UUMC (which remains in violation of church law with its ongoing affiliation with RMN) requested a bishop’s ruling of law, claiming proper procedure was not followed. Seeking creative ways to get biblical standards and the clear intent of church law overturned on alleged technicalities is a longstanding tactic of sexually libeal United Methodist activists. Professing a (newfound) respect for church law, RMN has is championing this new line of challenge, urging pro-homosexuality activists to flood Bishop Jim Dorff’s email account. The case will ultimately be reviewed by the Judicial Council, the denomination’s supreme court.
This is all part of a wider, nationwide campaign of attrition being orchestrated by RMN against the United Methodist Church. Since the global denomination overall is moving in a more orthodox direction on sexual morality, sexual liberals do not have the votes to change church policy at our governing General Conferences – and are even losing ground there. At the last General Conference, RMN ultimately gave up on even gave even seeking to change the ban on ordaining self-avowed practicing homosexuals. So now RMN and its powerful secular allies are pursuing a nationwide campaign to try to destructively wear the church down by encouraging renegade clergy to endlessly defy settled church law on the issue.
Miss Kaiser chose to keep pursuing United Methodist ordination despite knowing the requirements full well and not even needing ordination for the sort of lay job she has. The clergy supporting her candidacy are doing so in known violation of the very church law they covenanted before God and the church to uphold. If they are not willing to keep the clergy covenant responsibilities, there is no integrity in these heterodox clergy insisting on keeping its benefits.
This extended, unnecessary, affirmation-seeking stunt by a lesbian activist amounts to hijacking the church’s time and energies by using the ordination process as a platform to attack our church’s standards – when she is not even interested in making the basic personal commitments necessary for United Methodist ordination.
Jesus said that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). But others would rather selfishly break the whole church than follow biblical standards for sexual self-control.
Is that really the kind of attitude needed in Christian ministry?