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UM Bishop Defies High Court Ruling, Relocates Faithful Pastor To Make Way For Unrepentant Homosexual

Methodist Bishops Request Reconsideration of Gay Church Membership Ruling
Friday, Mar. 31, 2006 Posted: 2:49:37PM EST

Bishops of the United Methodist Church are urging the denomination’s top court to reconsider its ruling that allowed a Virginia pastor to withhold church membership from an actively homosexual man.

The United Methodist Judicial Council reinstated the Rev. Ed Johnson as pastor of his Virginia church last November in a ruling with multi-faceted implications. Johnson, pastor of the South Hill United Methodist Church, had been suspended by Virginia bishop Charlene Kammerer after he refused to grant church membership to an openly homosexual man who was active in his church.

In making its decision, the court emphasized the right of ordained ministers to determine who can and cannot be received as a church member. Johnson, who had counseled with the gay parishioner for months, felt the man was not ready for membership because he was unrepentant of his homosexual lifestyle.

In a court brief obtained by the Institute on Religion and Democracy – a conservative watchdog group that monitors mainline denominations – the Council of United Methodist bishops protested the Judicial Council ruling and supported Bishop Kammerer’s request for a reconsideration of the decision.

“We respectfully ask the Judicial Council to grant a re-hearing of Decision 1032 as requested by Bishop Kammerer, and reverse the findings of said decision,” the bishops wrote.

In the brief, the bishops said the decision “undercuts the authority of the Superintendents, the Bishop, and the clergy session of the annual conference” because it gave “sole authority to make pastoral judgments to the pastor.”

“This is contrary to our polity and ecclesiology,” the bishops wrote.

Meanwhile, Kammerer announced that she will relocate Johnson to another church, despite his congregation’s support. Under United Methodist polity, pastors are assigned directly by the overseeing bishop. By instructing Johnson to move to another congregation in June, Kammerer overrode the church’s request to let Johnson return for another year as pastor.

The Judicial Council will meet Apr. 26-28 in Overland Park, Kan. It potentially could agree to reconsider the Johnson case and deliberate immediately, schedule consideration at its fall meeting, or deny the request for reconsideration.

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