Motion passed to “close loophole” in “Book of Discipline”

6/13/2016

By Kara Witherow, Editor

The South Georgia Annual Conference on June 10 passed a motion asking that their Resident Bishop not receive, for appointment or transfer, clergy who have publicly stated their intent to disregard the current language of the “Book of Discipline” regarding human sexuality.

Submitted by Rev. Robert Beckum, senior pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus, the resolution was made after four annual conferences – Baltimore-Washington, New York, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois – stated that their boards of ordained ministry do not make the sexual orientation of candidates a determining factor in their decisions about ordination.

“The motion adopted by the South Georgia Annual Conference aims to accomplish the same thing as changes in para. 347.1 of the ‘2016 Book of Discipline,’” Rev. Beckum said. “Namely, to close a loophole allowing bishops to circumvent the expressed will of General Conference and the ‘Book of Discipline’ and their Annual Conference through the process of transfer of United Methodist clergy from one annual conference to another. It is most unfortunate that we have Bishops, Annual Conferences, and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry choosing to flagrantly disregard our Disciplinary Covenant while expressing concern for our historic connection and the unity of The United Methodist Church.”

The full text of Rev. Beckum’s motion reads: “We, the South Georgia Conference, call on the Resident Bishop of the South Georgia Episcopal area, when prayerfully exercising the power of consultation, to not receive for appointment or transfer, according to BOD 346.1 and 347.1, clergy that have publicly stated their intent to disregard the current language of the ‘Book of Discipline.’”

“We were very pleased with the motion and the overwhelming support by the vote of the Annual Conference,” said Rev. Jimmy Towson, outgoing chairman of the Board of Ordained Ministry and Rev. Scott Tucker, incoming chairman. “Intentional disregard for the ‘Book of Discipline’ on the part of other Conferences and Boards of Ordained Ministry is disconcerting and greatly weakens our covenant and connection.”

As a point of information during the session, Bishop James King reminded the conference that, as voted on by the 2016 General Conference session, beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the “Book of Discipline” will require that all transfers be processed by bishops in consultation with the Board of Ministry. Currently, para. 347.1 in the Book of Discipline reads: “From Other Annual Conferences – Ordained clergy or provisional members from other annual conferences of The United Methodist Church may be received by transfer into provisional or full membership with the consent of the bishops involved. Consultation with the chairperson or executive committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry shall be held prior to the transfer.”

The amended text, which will be published in the “2016 Book of Discipline,” reads: “From Other Annual Conferences – Ordained clergy or provisional members from other annual conferences of The United Methodist Church may be received by transfer into provisional or full membership with the consent of the bishops involved. Recommendation by the executive committee of the Board of Ministry and approval of the clergy session shall take place prior to the transfer.”