Conference offers apology and support for rejected ministry candidatesAnnual Conference 2022 Inclusivity
After grappling with the contentious issue of the role of LGBTQ+ persons in church leadership, delegates to the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church formally approved a resolution that offers apologies and support to a slate of 16 pastoral candidates rejected for provisional membership at the clergy session.
The resolution calls for allowing the candidates for commissioning to participate in the Residency in Ministry process at the earliest opportunity. It also will explore whether the coming year can count toward the required time before they can apply for ordination.
Bishop Kenneth Carter left open the possibility that he and the Cabinet could call a special clergy session in the fall to reconsider approval of the affected candidates rather than forcing them to wait until the 2023 Annual Conference.
The action followed two unsettling days after the action taken at the clergy session.
On the opening day of the first face-to-face Annual Conference meeting in three years, the slate of 16 candidates approved Board of Ordained Ministry for full connection was rejected in the clergy session over the LGBTQ+ issue.
Opponents focused on two of the candidates.
During voting, candidates must receive 75% of the vote to be approved. After two votes, the rejected candidates received 72% approval.
"The great majority of the voices of those who spoke against their candidacy, or the processes leading to their candidacy, were those of pastors who are in formal processes of departing from the United Methodist Church," Bishop Carter said.
"A smaller number of the voices have departed since the clergy session two days ago.I say this not to disparage them, but to state the historical fact of how and why we are here."
The Bishop then spoke directly to those who were rejected.
"I grieve the harm you have experienced. I am committed to the support of your callings. In our polity, a bishop does not vote on any phase of a candidate’s calling into ministry. These are the actions of those authorized by the church. Instead, the bishop commissions, ordains, and appoints. This is our separation of powers," he said.
"I want to say that I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you."
On Friday, the Conference added the resolution giving the rejected candidates new hope for approval. It went before the delegates on Saturday morning.
In an emotional comment on the floor before the resolution vote, retired pastor Jeff Kantz expressed his difficulty with his vote.
“In the clergy session, we were presented with the option to choose grace or choose to live by our word of discipline: one or the other. There was an effort on the part of those to minimize the hurt that would happen, and we in the clergy session chose not to go that way of doing that specific work because, as (Assistant to the Bishop) Alex (Shanks) pointed out (Friday) night, the discipline has not changed,” he said.
“I am split in half. Each time we hear the cheers and jeers, I feel the stones of my brothers and my sisters on each side. The Board of Ordained Ministry knew that this was still not a disciplinary action; it was brought to us for a decision. Seventy percent of us chose grace. Thirty percent of us chose to stand by our word. I see myself in both of those.”
Teenager Norah Pancost joined with the youth caucus to urge passage of the resolution.
“The vote of the clergy was not an accurate representation of how we, as the future of the church, feel or believe. Many of those resistant to passing the original vote will not even be a part of the future ministry that this vote will be affecting due to a split within our church.”
Earlier, Rev. Magrey deVega, chair of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, noted the diversity of the 34 candidates for licensed local pastors, provisional deacons, provisional elders, and ordained deacons. The group included 65% women, 35% men, and 32% persons of color.
“We have an ongoing commitment to the core values we adopted in 2020,” he said. “This includes keeping Christ and the call to make disciples at the center of what we do while upholding our Wesleyan heritage and identity.
“We value relationships with each candidate that are prayerful, relational, and personal. We seek to serve God’s church by forming clergy who can serve over the long haul of ministry.”
It has been a stressful time in the Conference for those on both sides of this issue.
To those outside of Florida, who have been observing, praying, and reflecting with us, I want to say that this is a
Conference filled with awesome people. And that, in my language, we are a non-binary Annual Conference," Bishop Carter said.
"We are seeking to move toward each other, with our many narratives, passions, and gifts, we are seeking to encounter Christ in our differences, and all of this is rooted in God’s mission to a world in need of salvation, liberation, grace, holiness, and justice. And in this moment I want to say that the body of Christ is beautiful, even in its brokenness."
Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org
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