Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Decision 1032

You can read the full decision here.

The Judicial Council's ruling seems to hang on the interpretation of two Discipline text. In my opinion, one of these decisions is correct, but the other is wrong. Here is the first quote from Decision 1032:

Paragraph 225 states: "Transfer from Other Denominations – A member in good standing in any Christian denomination who has been baptized and who desires to unite with The United Methodist Church may [emphasis added] be received as either a baptized or a professing member by a proper certificate of transfer from that person's former church, or by a declaration of Christian faith, and upon affirming a willingness to be loyal to The United Methodist Church (see ¶¶ 214-217) . . . ."

The Council is right here in saying that Paragraph 225 does not say that all transferring members must be accepted. They "may be received." The church is not required to receive them.

Here is a second quote from Decision 1032:

Paragraph 214 states: "Eligibility – The United Methodist Church is a part of the holy catholic (universal) church, as we confess in the Apostles' Creed. In the church, Jesus Christ is proclaimed and professed as Lord and Savior. All people may [emphasis added] attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection . . . . ” The operative word in connection with the phrase "become members in any local church in the connection" is "may." Decision 930 established the premise that "shall" cannot be used to replace "may" in the Discipline. Thus the General Conference has determined that any person “may” become a member of any local church in the connection.

Here they are using the same argument about the word "may." However, there is a problem. In Paragraph 225, the verb was in the passive voice: "may be received." An outside authority, presumably the pastor or local church, is the entity that gets to decide whether or not "may" becomes reality. However, in this case, Paragraph 214 has an active verb: "All people may attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection." The "may" is attached directly to "All people." It is the "all people" who have the power over the "may." The persons presenting themselves get to decide whether they will or will not become members, not the pastor.

Furthermore, if we take the Judicial Council's ruling as it is, we must assume that the pastor is able to bar people from more than just membership. The pastor decides whether someone can "attend its [the UMC's] worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments..." So, if we believe the Judicial Council, all UMC clergy can bar anyone they don't like from worship, refuse to give them the sacraments, or kick them out of church programs. This is not only against the Discipline, but it is against the very heart and nature of The UMC.


Blogger Brian said...

It is like the Clinton case - it all depended on how you define "is". This term we've been talking about law and judicial activism (in the political system obviously), but there are a lot of parallels to our discussions in this case. I won't bore you here though!

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, it reads like prooftexting to me, too. Very unWesley.

Mary Ann

5:42 AM  

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