Tuesday, April 29, 2008

General Conference- April 28

One very positive development at General Conference is giving me some hope. The slate of delegates for the Judicial Council (the United Methodist version of the Supreme Court) approved by the Council of Bishops and ratified by the GC delegates (again, kind of like the President nominating judges and being voted on by Congress) are a much more moderate group than has been elected to the JC in recent years. In the past four years the Judicial Council has been populated with people who lean toward the extreme conservative end of the UM spectrum, and as such have produced a number of disappointing and frankly unjust decisions. 

Chief among these unfortunate decisions was the case of a Virginia pastor who refused to admit a man as a member of his congregation for the sole reason that the man in question was homosexual. The pastor was disciplined by his Annual Conference, but the decision was reversed by the Judicial Council, citing the paragraph in the Book of Discipline where it says that pastors are charged to make sure people are adequately prepared for membership. This interpretation basically opens the doors for me as a pastor to refuse membership to anybody who I deem unfit for pretty much any reason I want, no matter how small the disagreement.

For example, I believe very strongly that Christianity is against violence in all of its forms, including war. So according to the Judicial Council, I could refuse membership to someone who is in the military because they could be called upon to serve in a war and possibly have to commit acts of violence against another one of God's children. Aside from being an extremely unpopular choice in Clarksville (Ft. Campbell, a huge Army base, is right next door), I would be sending the message that to be a part of the church you have to get all your opinions straight. I would be saying that the church is a place for those who have already achieved perfection, rather than a place for those who are mutually seeking perfection together.

I hope that this decision will be reversed by the new Judicial Council. Electing JC members is a proscribed duty of the General Conference, so I'm glad they made a good decision when they were forced to make one. There are a number of other important decisions that the GC seems to be postponing, but that will be the subject of my next post.

3 comments:

Mitch Lewis said...

The Discipline (and thus the United Methodist Church) respects the vocation of Christians who serve in the armed forces. It does not offer that same respect to homosexual acts. The question of church discipline, then, is not merely a matter of the pastor's personal opinion. It is a legitimate matter to discuss the meaning of church membership and the degree of commitment required, but even under 1032 you would have no Disciplinary foundation for denying membership to anyone on the basis of military service. The United Methodist Church explicitly accepts the right of Christians to serve in the Army.

How sad that your conference could not appoint a pastor to Clarksville that loved Soldiers, honored their sacrifices and respected their vocation.

Serving with those who serve ...

B Smith said...

Mitch,

I think you're way off base with your statement. Matt was simply giving an "as if" scenario using another hotbed issue in today's day and time to demonstrate the ludicrousness of the Judicial Council's decision. I know Matt well enough to say that he loves all his people and the people of the Clarksville area including the men and women soldiers of Ft. Campbell and those who have served in military service in the past. Just because you disapprove of this current military engagement or any unjust war does not mean that you don't love and pray for those in the midst of that hell. There is really no need to defend Matt because anyone who knows Matt can attest that such a statement is completely untrue.

Matt Kelley said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Brad, although I think if you read my statement I'm clearly not saying anything bad about anyone in the military.

I don't mind it if people disagree with what I say but I'd appreciate if it was respectful. Please bear that in mind if you choose to comment in the future, Mitch.