Covenant cheese-head style?

Wisconsin’s clergy covenant team — a group that was commissioned by the annual conference after the Amy DeLong trialreleased its recommendations for consideration at the upcoming Wisconsin Annual Conference. The group’s web site says the recommendations will go to the clergy session.

Jeremy Smith has written favorably about it here.

The purpose of the group was to make proposals to help repair the covenant among clergy in Wisconsin. One section that seems to capture the heart of the document’s goals is quoted here:

The Wisconsin Annual Conference will no longer participate in the Book of Discipline’s categorical discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Sexual orientation and partnered status create no barrier to effective and faithful leadership.

The Wisconsin Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church professes that any person whose gifts and call are otherwise affirmed will be welcomed into candidacy, ordination and appointment.

GLBT persons already ordained will now be free to live un-closeted and truthful lives, without threats of retributive action.

Additionally, United Methodist clergy in the Wisconsin Annual Conference will be free from complaint, punishment, prosecution or trial if he/she conducts same-gender Holy Union ceremonies.

This report came from an original group with 12 members. Four members apparently left the group for reasons that are not mentioned in the report. The original 12, with the drop outs highlighted in red are:

  • Rev. Doyle Blanton
  • Rev. Amy DeLong
  • Rev. Maribel Celiz
  • Rev. Rosalind Dryver-Scott
  • Rev. Dan Fahs
  • Rev. Dawn Helton-Anishinaabeqwa
  • Rev. Bill McBride
  • Rev. Steve Scott
  • Rev. Forrest Wells
  • Rev. John Wells
  • Rev. Dave Werner
  • Rev. Wesley White

The group that produced the report made an effort to be transparent by putting up a public web site to track its work and proposals. The site includes a long look at the concept of covenant in the Book of Discipline and notes from meetings, which contain some interesting tidbits.

For instance, here is a quote from the group’s published meeting summary for Oct. 15, 2012:

We recognized there is a certain “guilt by association” for being a part of this group. The assumption being that we are all just Amy [DeLong] groupies and some of our colleagues won’t speak or have coffee with us because of our presence here. This led to a counter assumption that folks feel our current state of affairs is “good enough”, that the pain level of some is acceptable and we can just keep going as we have.

The summary from November 26, 2012, touches on the group’s discussions about the Book of Discipline and its work.

Regarding our Book of Discipline, it was noted that we have successfully taught that to be a person of good faith, covenant means nothing more than obedience to the current Discipline. One response to this was, “We are bound by more than the Discipline. We believe our driving principle is that we are called to obey the command to love. We are called into a community that is guided by the commandment to love. Period. No categorical exclusions.”

We wrestled for a while with the implications of working to change the Discipline vs. living by the letter of the Discipline because that’s what we now have vs. civilly disobeying the Discipline on grounds of injustice to those whom it excludes. (Note: as is usual with these reports this is an oversimplification of the conversation.)

The summary from a December 2012, meeting reports on conversations with Wisconsin Bishop Hee-Soo Jung. It includes this sentence:

If a clergy person desires an appointment (even a self-avowed practicing…) they will be appointed to a church that will accept their ministry

To me that reads in context as if the bishop was offering that assurance to the group. That might not be the correct interpretation, though.

It will be interesting to see how the clergy in Wisconsin vote on the proposal.


18 thoughts on “Covenant cheese-head style?

  1. My guess is, this will pass easily, get appealed to the Judicial Council, who will rule this null, void, and of no effect, but the Wisconsin Conference will ignore the will of the denomination and the letter and spirit of the Discipline.

  2. That’s interesting about the drop-outs. If they were all in “non-agreement” with the clergy group’s findings and decisions, and decided to drop out, then that’s a problem for their whole process. At the same time, a few people shouldn’t de-legitimize the whole process because of their discontent at being the minority.

    1. I have no idea why they left. I could have been as simple as not having time to meet. I listed the names because folks who know the players might be able to interpret it better than I can.

      1. Taking a look again at the list, only five of those who stayed are active full elders under appointment to a local church. The four who left are all under appointment to a local church.

  3. Ha! Jeremy did you read what you just wrote?! If this proposal passes, the little Wisconsin Conference shouldn’t “de-legitimize the whole process” (of General Conference) “because of their discontent at being the minority.”

  4. “We are called into a community that is guided by the commandment to love. Period. No categorical exclusions.”

    Wow that is some statement!
    Just imagine where this could lead.
    Man does many things for love and justifies many dark deeds with Love being the motive behind the act. Let your imagine run wild and see what atrocities could and have been done in “the name of love”.
    Under the wide umbrella proposed just imagine who could hold those coveted positions in the church

    Who is writing this stuff up?
    Is this Wisconsin’s brightest and best?

    1. Ok, I’m “imagining where this could lead, allowing my mind to run wild and envisioning what atrocities could be done in the name of love.”

      Ordained clergy might marry two straight people, a man and a woman, and the man might commit adultery with yet another woman. No, that would never happen.

      Ordained clergy might marry two straight people, a man and a woman, and the woman might want a divorce because the man is impotent or she simply finds someone “better.” No, that would never happen.

      Since the inception of the UMC, straight clergy have overseen the sacrament of marriage. Now, knowing full-well that minimally 1/2 (and currently surely closer to 2/3) of all the marriages they bless will end in divorce for any myriad of reasons, they continue to bless these marriages–in the name of love. Really? Is that the atrocity to which you are referring, d?

      As a lawyer I can dissolve a marriage with a pen and the strike of a gavel. Does it really matter that the ordained clergy who established the marriage was gay, bi, lesbian or straight? Yet, as I understand it, that’s what you clergy are going to discuss at your upcoming annual conference in 2013? For real?

      The atrocity, to me, is that you are still having this conversation in 2013. Another atrocity is that you might intentionally exclude a wonderful man or woman (potential ordained clergy) from helping a member of a Methodist church find meaning in their lives, come to terms with their sexuality, or embrace their humanity because the member never had the opportunity to be served by the openly LGBT minister.

      Yes, I can sure envision a bunch of atrocities in the name of love. By the way, are you convening your conference in the name of love?

  5. Looks like this group wrote some sort of Declaration of Independence from The UMC.
    And do we know this statement as a verifiable fact? “Knowing the vast majority of United Methodist bishops are in disagreement with the exclusionary policies of the church”

    And The UMC internecine war will continue.

    1. I pray that the UMC affirms the work of Clergy in Covenant. It is a step in the direction of legitimizing the UMC in the eyes of 21st Century followers, and former followers like me, who are watching and praying that the UMC will honor all humans who seek to know Christ and look to the Clergy as leaders in that varied journey to fellowship with Christ. I have long dismayed the pretense of any church that would blatantly disregard God’s command to “love one another” while simultaneously denying that love to any human–whether LGBT or not. As clergy you are called to lead. Do so. It is 2013. It is past time to embrace ALL God’s children. I commend this effort and wish God’s blessings on the UMC.

  6. It really seems strange to talk about building a covenant when we are talking about people who lied during their ordination vows and have been in violation of the Discipline every day since. This is never just been about being “welcoming” to sinners of all types. The main issue has always been the closeted clergy who want to both serve openly and continue to enjoy all the benefits that come with being UM clergy. Otherwise, why would they continue under a system that for THIRTY YEARS has prohibited their service? Especially when we do almost everything we can to blur the lines between us and the rest of the mainline. But, there are fewer pulpits available and the benefits are less. The decision to stay seems to be driven more by temporal benefits rather than an issue of conscience.

    1. What seems really strange is that we might call someone out for “having lied” during their ordination when the very rules/discipline of the organization demanded/effected the dishonesty in the first instance. If the military can survive openly gay men and women serving among its ranks, I’m betting the UMC will be ok, too. Let’s give it a try.

      1. The Episcopalians are shrinking or growing? The United Church of Christ is shrinking or growing? The vote at General Conference was what? The whole Western Jurisdiction is smaller than the North Georgia Annual Conference. In addition to Georgia, there are more UMs in the individual states of Texas, Pennsylvania or Ohio than there are in the whole Western Jurisdiction. Reason and experience should be telling us something important.

        We only have one military. You are putting body and soul at risk when you serve in a sacrificial way. The UMC provides better benefits and more pulpits than the mainline denominations who allow openly gay clergy to serve. So, it isn’t a sacrifice to go to The UMC.

  7. Shalom!

    Two things. Our Report (I’m a member of the Team) is a progress report (rather than a finished product) and neither the Team nor our Bishop intended to have a vote at the just-concluded Annual Conference. The Team understands that voting does not really settle the matter of how we live together.

    Second, please note “the rest of the Report,” which has to do with a real application of the paragraphs in the DISCIPLINE regarding orders/fellowship. Many of us think it’s important to be in conversation with one another. We do not have to agree in order to be in Christ.

    We want to live together better.

    dave werner

    1. Dave,

      Thank you for commenting. I have to confess as a distant reader of the document that the real passion of appears to be around recommendation 6 — including that rather lengthy exegesis on the Book of Discipline found on the site. I think the background of this arising out of the Amy DeLong trial certainly colors the way many people would read it.

      As a local pastor, I’ll also note that the covenant talk appears to be all about silos. The lengthy discussion of elder covenant does not really apply to local pastors, for instance.

      I pray the conference clergy do find renewed passion for their mission.


      1. Let me point out that one of the directives for the Team (found on p. 2 of our Report) is “Seek protection of and equality for the vulnerable/minority by ending participation in discrimination (specifically against LGBT people).” To be sure, there is great passion stemming from the Rev. DeLong’s church trial, but our Item #6 was a response to one of the directives given us.

        That matter that draws so much attention is one of several issues affecting our relationships as clergy. The Team recommends the paragraphs in THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE that deal with the Order of Elders, the Order of Deacons, and the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members. The Team recognizes that our invitation to the Conference must find acceptance from clergy of all kinds and the laity as well if it is to be helpful. This is why our Report was presented to the Executive Session and a plenary.

        We think that the orders/fellowship offer a good possibility for living together better as we talk with one another and serve Christ together.

        Shalom! dave

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