By James V. Heidinger II,
President and Publisher
GOOD NEWS PERSPECTIVE — No. 35, November 25, 2008
“EXTRAORDINARY ORDINATION” HAS NO UNITED METHODIST STATUS, BISHOPS SAY — Most United Methodists will be grateful for the statement issued from the recent Council of Bishops meeting saying that the “extraordinary ordinations” of two women by the unofficial Church Within A Church group has “no official status” within the United Methodist Church.
The statement made November 7 by a task force created by the Council to address the matter was responding to an ecumenical “ordination” of a practicing lesbian and another woman, a vocal advocate of gay rights who was turned down by the Board of Ministry in the Iowa Annual Conference.
During the ceremony held at the historic Mount Vernon Place UM Church in Baltimore, two retired United Methodist bishops—Susan Morrison and Jesse DeWitt—participated in the laying on of hands of the two women. Notes of encouragement and support also came from retired bishops Judith Craig and Leontine Kelley.
The Council of Bishop’s statement was designed to make clear that the ordinations “have no effect within the United Methodist Church,” they have no official status, and they do not qualify the two for appointment within the denomination.
Several bishops said they did not see the ordinations as an indication of “schism.” Another said he does not consider “schism” to be the prevailing spirit of Church Within a Church and other pro-gay groups. These folks just “do what they need to do, but there is no intent to harm the United Methodist Church.”
Whether there is intent or not, harm is being done. Actions such as this send a signal to the church from some of our highest elected leaders that the practice of homosexuality must not be “incompatible with Christian teaching,” as the Scriptures have taught for thousands of years and as the United Methodist Church affirms. This is doing harm to the church, there can be no doubt. It affects United Methodist membership, morale, and money.
While we are deeply grateful for the bishops’ statement of clarification, we looked—but did not find—any indications of dissatisfaction or unhappiness from the Council that two of its retired members participated in a service of ordination that was more political theater than holy ordinance, done for the purpose of protesting the church’s carefully established stance on the issue of homosexuality.