Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Questioning the Silence

News about the Judicial Council's re-affirmation of Rev. Drew Phoenix's appointment has spread far and wide. Even NPR posted a feature story on their main web page proclaiming that the United Methodist Church's historic vote to "keep a transgender pastor."

Yet, while this is good news for Rev. Phoenix and for our Reconciling movement, the silent gaps of the Judicial Council's rulings leave an ominous hole that some in the coming General Conference will surely seek to fill by including explicit prohibitions against transgender pastors. While the Judicial Council explicitly stated that a change of name needs no special action of the General Conference, the Council made clear that this decision does not determine "whether gender change is a chargeable offense or violates minimum standards established by the General Conference." In making this statement, the Judicial Council leaves a wide open space for the General Conference to make such a determination when it next meets this coming spring.

Likewise, the decisions regarding funding for reconciling campus ministries did not directly challenge the unjust prohibitions of funding for welcoming ministries. Rather, the Council found that there was no evidence that conference funds supported activities that "promoted the acceptance of homosexuality." Implicit in both the rulings is that if evidence were to be found of conference funds used for ministry with LGBT persons, future funding would be cut and disciplinary action of some sort taken. In fact, the direction to the Western North Carolina committee on finance and administration to "investigate" the matter appears to give the green light to groups who want to play watchdog and police the activities of any and all church affiliated groups that seek to be in mission with LGBT persons, their friends and families.

While we celebrate the affirmation of these ministries, we must be careful to recognize the silent gaps that pave the way for further prohibitions as we near General Conference 2008. Sometimes that which is left unsaid is far more important than that which is actually said.


Anonymous said...

With respect, the JC should have addressed the issues raised. Failing that, the GC will have to make the decision. Hopefully GC will not find it so difficult to speak plainly to these issues about which there should be no doubt. Sincerely. OOM.

Pat said...


You are quite right, there should be no doubt that all people are welcomed as full participant's in God's house!