A United Methodist Church bishop in Texas has ruled that a lesbian’s clergy candidacy in the denomination can proceed, reversing a preemptive rejection from officials.
Bishop James Dorff of the Southwest Texas Conference stated Thursday that Mary Ann Kaiser’s candidacy could not be removed by the Board of Ordained Ministry without going through the proper process.
“Since the action of the Clergy Session was to uphold the action of the Board of Ordained Ministry, and the action of the Board of Ordained Ministry was not in keeping with the Discipline, I rule that Ms. Kaiser remains a Candidate for Ministry and is due full examination, including an interview, by the Board of Ordained Ministry,” stated Dorff.
Kaiser, who now goes by the last name Barclay after unofficially marrying her partner, provided The Christian Post with an official statement regarding the news.
“I look forward to now having the opportunity to meet personally with the Board of Ordained Ministry,” said Barclay. “I find hope in the fact that this wrong is being corrected and I am eager to continue on this relational, Spirit driven process with the Board.”
The Southwest Texas Conference told The Christian Post that Bishop Dorff was not taking any interviews on the issue and therefore declined to comment.
Barclay was certified as a candidate for deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference in 2008 and eventually earned a Master of Divinity at the United Methodist-approved Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Earlier this year the Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) refused to consider Barclay’s candidacy before the usual process was completed.
Supporters of Barclay argued that this was discrimination over her being a lesbian while opponents countered that as a practicing lesbian Barclay was already ineligible.
The issue was brought before Bishop Dorff, who in July refused to make an official decision, calling the request “moot and hypothetical.”
In late October, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled that Dorff had to make a ruling regarding the question over Barclay’s ordination track and the BOM’s decision.
Dorff was given 60 days to comply with the UMJC decision and to issue a ruling regarding whether the BOM was in the right over terminating Barclay’s candidacy.
While Dorff’s ruling allows for Barclay’s ordination track to continue, consideration will still be held in light of the denomination’s rules for ordination.
According to the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” are prohibited from being ordained.
John Lomperis, director of the United Methodist program at The Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that he believed Dorff’s decision made sense.
“The scope of his ruling is very narrowly focused on specific provisions for following proper procedures, and does not render any decision on whether or not the young lesbian activist in question is fit for ministry or will ultimately be ordained,” said Lomperis.
“The problem he is facing is that the local UMC officials … responsible for initially screening potential clergy chose to … push forward Ms. Barclay’s candidacy simply for the sake of rebelling against the biblical church standards they vowed to uphold.”
Lomperis also referred to the whole matter as a “publicity stunt” being carried out by pro-gay UMC groups.
“All this decision does is prolong this ongoing, narcissistic publicity stunt by opponents of biblical, historic Christian teaching on sexual self-control,” said Lomperis.
“But in the end, after the activists are done wasting as much of the church’s time and energies as they can, I expect that Ms. Barclay’s candidacy will be discontinued again and she will never be ordained in the UMC.”