What Can Pastors Do?
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
June 1, 2016
Some people have asked, “What can and should pastors do, given the action regarding human sexuality at the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church?”
I believe pastors have already been providing pastoral care, welcome counsel, and guidance to all persons in their local churches and mission field.
Even though same-gender weddings have been legal in Iowa since 2009, if annual conference pastors are asked to officiate a same-gender wedding, our answer is “No, I am not permitted to as a United Methodist clergy.” To be clear, it is not a chargeable offense to be present at a same-gender wedding or celebration.
Many United Methodist clergy have Episcopal, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and Presbyterian Church (USA) colleagues they call upon when same-gender couples seek to be married by clergy in church or other venue weddings.
We are called to love, respect and affirm all of the people of God. This includes clergy and lay in The United Methodist Church who have come out as LGBTQ, prior to our recent General Conference.
In accordance with the Book of Discipline, 2012, we have chosen to follow the “just resolution” process. I believe that all are “children of God” and deserve to be heard and taken seriously and that is the way I have approached complaints when they have arisen. I understand one of my roles, as bishop, is to provide pastoral oversight. We have not had a church trial in eight years. During that time some have exited ministry or have left The United Methodist Church.
In this time period between General Conference 2016 and the completion of the work of the yet-to-be-organized Council of Bishops commission, I encourage and invite all concerned United Methodists to a season of prayer, study and conversation. Human sexuality, existing disciplinary language, matters of ordination, presiding at wedding ceremonies, and questions about a more inclusive church are all subjects that can be addressed in a variety of settings. The Board of Ordained Ministry, Order of Elders and Deacons, Fellowship of Local Pastors, Board of Laity, or district conversations, for example, are places where we can talk about the questions of what unites us and how we engage our differences.
I remain a prisoner of hope.