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United Methodist Council of Bishops Affirms Church Law Over Divisive Verdict

“The Council of Bishops reminds the church this one case does not alter the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality or the qualifications for ministry. The Discipline's authority is unchanged.
( [email protected] ) Mar 27, 2004 12:36 PM EST

The leaders of the United Methodist Council of Bishops released a statement affirming the denomination’s long-standing position on the ordination of homosexuality, and clarifying the fact that the acquittals of lesbian pastor Karen Dammann does not change the Church’s outlook on the issue, March 26. The long awaited statement came amid the outpouring of thousands of indignant outcries made by the denomination’s disconcerted parishioners.

“The verdict in the trial of Rev. Karen Dammann in the Seattle Episcopal area has raised questions across the United Methodist Church,” the statement began. “The Council of Bishops reminds the church this one case does not alter the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality or the qualifications for ministry. The Discipline's authority is unchanged. Nor does this case directly affect other Annual Conferences as they may adjudicate such cases”

The bishops reached the agreement on the statement following a March 25 conference call organized by the council’s president, the Bishop Ruediger Minor of Moscow.

“We invite the church to join us in respectful, prayerful dialogue and Christian conferencing to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading. Together let us find, affirm, and live a common understanding of our doctrines and discipline,” they continued, helping alleviate the great misunderstandings in the denomination following Dammanns trial.

The bishops said they are convinced that General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, “must be a place of prayerful consideration of and agreement over our commonly held convictions and norms for Christian teaching and living.”


The 2004 General Conference will take place April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh. The legislative body meets every four years to consider proposals regarding the Book of Discipline, which contains church law and social principles, and the Book of Resolutions, which addresses social issues. The nearly 1,000 delegates at the conference represent 8.3 million United Methodists in the United States and 1.7 million United Methodists who live in Europe, Africa, and the Philippines.

The following is the March 26 statement in its entirety:


A STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ON BEHALF OF THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH


Re: Response to the verdict in the Rev. Karen Dammann Trial


The verdict in the trial of Rev. Karen Dammann in the Seattle Episcopal area has raised questions across the United Methodist Church. The Council of Bishops reminds the church this one case does not alter the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality or the qualifications for ministry. The Discipline's authority is unchanged. Nor does this case directly affect other Annual Conferences as they may adjudicate such cases.


We affirm the leadership of Bishop Elias Galvan of the Seattle Area for ensuring due process as prescribed by The Book of Discipline. We affirm our vow as bishops to uphold the Discipline of The United Methodist Church.


As your bishops, we invite the church to join us in respectful, prayerful dialogue and Christian conferencing to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading. Together let us find, affirm, and live a common understanding of our doctrines and discipline. We are convinced that the General Conference must be a place of prayerful consideration of and agreement over our commonly held convictions and norms for Christian teaching and living.


The Dammann case does reveal continuing differences in the United Methodist Church concerning the issue of homosexuality. The Council of Bishops is painfully aware of this disagreement. In such moments as this, we remember that our unity in Christ does not depend on unanimity of opinion. Rather, in Jesus Christ we are bound together by love that transcends our differences and calls us to stay at the table with one another.


”And I will show you a still more excellent way… Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (I Corinthians 12:31b, 13:4-8a)