Over the course of the last month, Reconciling United Methodists have been joining our voices together to faithfully proclaim that God has already established what is lawful. Galatians asserts that wherever we see the fruits of the Spirit, God is at work, and against this there is “no such law.” We have seen and heard and experienced the fruit of the ministry of Bishop Oliveto and LGBTQ leaders across the Connection. Together, we commit to the belief that no official church law should be recognized over and against scripture.

We give no authority to any legal decision that undermines God’s work and Word.

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church argued that the consecration of the first openly lesbian bishop violates church law, while affirming her election until a local administrative or judicial process is complete. In two other rulings on LGBTQ ordination, the top court emphatically reinforced that local Boards of Ordained Ministry must consider whether the candidate is a “self-avowed and practicing homosexual.” 

In the case of Bishop Oliveto, the Court simply underlined the long-standing anti-LGBTQ policy of the church and sent the matter back to the same bishops that consecrated her in the Western Jurisdiction. Given the strong leadership in this jurisdiction, it seems highly unlikely she will be removed from her ministry as a result of a trial. Equally, the Court’s ruling does nothing to change the imperative set by boards in Northern Illinois and New York who declared they will only examine potential candidates for ministry by their gifts and graces rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity. These Boards of Ordained Ministry declared their commitment to non-discrimination in full awareness of the policies within the Book of Discipline.

The Court’s decisions act as a reprimanding reminder of what many have already proclaimed irrelevant.

The Court’s reassertion of the system-wide discrimination that targets LGBTQ people compounds the weight and force of our punitive language and policies. We must never lose sight of the tremendous scandal that lies at the heart of the church’s policies embedded in disgust, shame, and fear. There is not now, nor has there ever been, any excuse or justifiable reason to condone or sanction the mistreatment of LGBTQ persons. What there is now, however, is a clear and unadulterated vision of judgment that awaits all those who continue to uphold such evil, injustice, and oppression.

Depending on the actions of individuals and committees moving forward, it can be argued that the Judicial Council rulings are practically meaningless. They are stops along the way to inclusion and the eventual victory of the all embracing gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithfulness of United Methodists committed to ending discrimination is causing the church’s infrastructure to give way to justice and mercy, but currently we are enduring the labor pains that anticipate new life. Alongside so many smaller victories, the special called General Conference of 2019 is a direct result of years of such commitment of the faithful.

The Judicial Council has simply reasserted our longstanding anti-LGBTQ policies and the next move belongs to all of us.

So where will you stand? Will you give authority to laws where scripture has said there is no such law? Or will you wear this reprimand like a sign of good and faithful work, beckoning us forward in more courage, perseverance, and welcome?

Rise up, faithful ones!

Will opening your church doors to LGBTQ weddings produce joy? Will supporting LGBTQ candidates of ministry in the church produce faithfulness? Will reaching out to those who are still struggling to understand the welcome that God calls us to extend produce love? Let the Holy Word be your guide and pay no authority to the church’s efforts to reassert its prejudicial policies and practices. They have only as much power as individuals and communities choose to give them.

We simply will not recognize a law where God has already said, “there is no such law!”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” – Galatians 5:22-23

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Matt Berryman

Matt Berryman serves Reconciling Ministries Network as executive director. Prior to joining the staff of RMN, Matt spent three years in law school at the Florida Coastal School during which time he worked for churches, law firms, and LexisNexis as a legal editor.From 2002-2009, Matt served United Methodist congregations in the Jacksonville area of the Florida Conference.In addition to serving churches in the United Kingdom, he has led training events and workshops for The United Methodist Church, The Fund for Theological Education, Emory University, and the Fellowship of United Methodists for Music and Worship Arts.He received a B.A. from the University of South Carolina and a M.Div. from Emory University. Although he loves the heat and sunshine of Florida, he anticipates growing to love the charm of cold weather living in Illinois and the perfection of the snowflake!Matt loves an outdoor concert, a good idea, and his 14 year old son, Aidan.
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