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Most clergy not in favor of ordaining homosexuals (April 28, 2004)

Most clergy not in favor of ordaining homosexuals (April 28, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Most clergy not in favor of ordaining homosexuals

April 28, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0064}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - While most of the Florida Conference clergy responding to a recent "e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service" survey agreed homosexual persons should not be ordained and those pastors who admit to being in homosexual relationships should lose their credentials once they are found in violation of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, the issue was not a foregone conclusion for some.

Conference clergy were asked earlier this month to respond by e-mail to several questions relating to the March church trial and acquittal of the Rev. Karen Dammann, a pastor from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference who admitted to being in a same-sex relationship. More than 40 clergy responded.

All but a few said the verdict should have been harsher and it wouldn't be the last time a pastor would admit to being gay.

The Rev. Philip H. Roughton, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Ormond Beach, said the verdict and what the United Methodist Church believes are two different things.

"While the verdict may be 'technically' defendable due to some imprecision of language in the Book of Discipline-as Bishop Tuell apparently argued effectively during the trial-anyone who has followed this issue, and certainly anyone attending any of the last several General Conferences, should have no doubt either about the mind of the church or the intent of whatever language may seem imprecise," he said.

Roughton said there has been an aggressive attempt to secure a vote demonstrating a different mind, but General Conference has consistently supported the denomination's current position. He said the verdict, as well as the "skillful" interpretation that enabled that verdict, violates the clear, documented mind of the church on this issue.

The Rev. James Renault, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Dade City, said the verdict is symptomatic of a larger problem impacting the church.

"While United Methodists agonize over the reasons for the decade's long decline in our membership, the answer is clearly set forth in the Dammann verdict," Renault said. "Not, mind you, in the specifics of the case itself, but in the reasoning that got the jury to its convoluted conclusion. It is symptomatic of a sickness that is spreading gradually, but persistently, through the body of Christ. The United Methodist Church is in the process of sacrificing its soul in the name of political correctness. The church is not changing the world. The world is changing the church. And all the while we fool ourselves into thinking that we can increase our membership by rearranging the furniture and adopting a new ad campaign."

The Rev. Brett Opalinski, a student at Iliff School of Theology, said the verdict causes United Methodists to deeply examine their Biblical beliefs.

"If we are honest we all disregard portions of both the Old and New Testaments. We do well to ask why the passages concerning homosexuality emerge as so important, while we are not near as strict about Jesus' sayings and teachings in the Sermon on the Mount," he said. "Regardless of what passages one chooses to emphasize, we must not let our opinions tear down the bonds of love that unite us as a diverse Church."

The Rev. Denzil Southwood-Smith, pastor at Miramar United Methodist Church, said the issue of homosexuality has been with the church for centuries and the church must face the subject in a straightforward way. He said the church must be definitive and stop waffling.

The Rev. Tim Machtel, associate pastor at Beach United Methodist Church, Jacksonville Beach, said the church must not waiver on accepting homosexual pastors with love, but not necessarily an appointment. He said if Dammann was a member of a local church she should be welcomed and embraced and loved as one who is of sacred worth.

"Her sacred worth does not diminish because she is denied an appointment in the Methodist ministry," Machtel said. "She should be allowed to be in the church and receiving the ministry of the church. However, until the time, should it come, the church accepts the ordination of gay clergypersons she should not be allowed to serve in violation of the covenant approved by the church at large."

The Rev. David H. Hodges, associate professor of humanities at Grambling State University and an elder in the Florida Conference, said the verdict caused him to feel torn.

"I have mixed feelings," he said. "While I believe that the church should recognize and support same-sex marriages and disagree with the current position, until the church comes to that understanding we are and ought to be bound to work within [The Book of] Discipline to effect change. Given that there are gays and lesbians in every segment of society, including the church and its ministry, I think it likely that there will be more trials from time to time."

The Rev. William A. Beebe, pastor of DeLeon Springs United Methodist Church, affirmed homosexual persons as some of the church's most faithful members. He said he supports homosexuals being welcomed in the church, but feels it would be too destructive for them to be ordained as clergy persons.

"I share all this from the perspective of having worked with HIV patients for 14 years, being an active member of the AIDS Coalition for 14 years in Daytona Beach, and finding deep devotion to God from a number of gay and lesbian persons," he said. "They struggled with the mainline denominations excluding them and feeling unwanted by God because of how they were treated. So, I have witnessed firsthand the discrimination."

The Rev. Glenn T. Mitchell II, pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church, said discrimination may be at the bottom of the homosexual issue.

"I don't really believe that the United Methodist Church understands the issues of homosexuality, and I don't believe that God has finished speaking about homosexual persons," he said. "I sincerely believe that there are some real justice issues regarding the inclusion and exclusion of homosexuals within the church. We need to not forget that, previously, we excluded persons based on gender, race, ethnic origin, education and class. I am not convinced that we should single out sexual preference for exclusion, and I am not convinced that homosexuality is 'the sin' that should exclude effective pastors from serving hurting people in the name of Jesus in many of our United Methodist churches."

To discuss this article or state your opinion visit the "e-Review" discussion board at For related information see "Delegates rank homosexuality as top issue facing General Conference" at


This article relates to Homosexuality and Church Beliefs.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.