Church’s high court expresses concern a review of Virginia minister’s decision would further polarize denomination
NASHVILLE, Tenn. The highest court in the United Methodist Church has refused to reconsider its earlier decision allowing a minister to deny a gay man church membership.
In a 5-4 ruling released Tuesday, the Judicial Council said there was no basis to revisit the case.
“We believe that reopening this matter, especially where no grounds have been demonstrated to do so, will further polarize the various parts of the church,” the majority wrote.
Last October, the council the denomination’s top court reinstated the Rev. Ed Johnson after Virginia church leaders put him on involuntary leave as senior pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church. The Virginia leaders had said Johnson’s actions violated the denomination’s pledge of openness to anyone seeking Christ. But the church court said that pastors have the right to decide who joins their congregations.
Several church groups appealed the decision, prompting Tuesday’s ruling.
Dissenting council members called the majority opinion “legally flawed” and “imprudent.” They said there was no basis in Christian theology or in the church’s disciplinary rules allowing a pastor to deny membership to anyone.
“Determining who is eligible for life in the church is not the vocation of the pastor,” they wrote.
“It is the Holy Spirit who makes us members of the church.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 5, 2006.