The bishops of the Methodist Church, in a pastoral letter published on Friday (Nov. 11) committed themselves to following church discipline and formally forbidding any clergy person to bless a same-sex relationship.
““As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made,” the letter said. “As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.”
The bishops’ statement marked the first time the council as a body has addressed the pledges to bless same-sex unions signed this year by more than 1,000 United Methodist clergy across the United States. In the New York Annual (regional) Conference, 732 lay people also have signed “a covenant of conscience” in support of such unions.
The pledges, in turn, sparked a countermovement by other United Methodist clergy and lay people urging the bishops to make clear that they will enforce the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, on this issue. So far, more than 2,500 clergy and 11,500 laity in the United States have signed petitions to the bishops at www.faithfulumc.com.”
What this means is that if a minister does participate in a same-sex blessing service, the bishops are announcing their intention to pursue what is called a “complaint process” which could end with a church trial if there is no intermediate reconciliation.
Remember that in February 36 retired Methodists bishops called for an end to the ban on clergy in same gender relationships. Perhaps this story isn’t yet fully written.