Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

A House Divided

Mark 3:25

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

The Judicial Council revealed its rulings over the weekend. I wasn’t under any false assumption that these rulings would bring the United Methodist Church together. Rather – I believed that further division would occur whatever their findings. And I was right. No sooner had the rulings been made public my Facebook feed began to go crazy. I’m part of the clergy groups and some United Methodist groups and between them and the main Facebook feed – reactions were running wild.

Some of my clergy colleagues were bemoaning the Judicial Council’s decisions. Some were calling for support for the Bishop ruled consecrated against church law. Some were saying that schism was a certainty.

Today’s passage has come to mind several times during the last 4 decades as a minority in the church has voiced their concern with the denomination’s stand on sexual sin. Read my response on homosexuality and the Denomination’s stand here.

Here is a report about the Judicial Council’s decision regarding the gay Bishop. They determined that her consecration was unlawful. http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/consecration-of-gay-bishop-against-church-law. Quoting the report – “Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore or negate church law,” said the decision, made public April 28. “It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop.”

Here is a report about another Judicial Council decision regarding sexuality. http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/review-all-clergy-qualifications-court-says. Quoting the report – “The board of ordained ministry is mandated by the Book of Discipline 2012 to examine all applicants as to their fitness for the ordained ministry…,” the council declared in both Decision 1343 regarding a New York Conference bishop’s decision of law, and Decision 1344, related to a bishop’s decision of law in Northern Illinois.

Opinions have run the gamut between acceptance of the rulings and rejection of the rulings. Here is Bishop Ough’s response to the Judicial Council’s decisions. Bishop Ough is the President of the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church. http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/president-of-the-council-of-bishops-statement-regarding-judicial-council-de. Quoting his report – “The Council of Bishops expresses our appreciation for the Judicial Council’s careful and deliberate consideration of this matter and for the thoughtful and considerate participation of all parties to the case.  The Judicial Council has a distinct and critical role in the governance structure of the denomination.  We recognize and respect the Judicial Council as the body responsible for deciding complex questions of church law, including the right to declare jurisdiction.  We implore all within the United Methodist structure and family to honor the Judicial Council ruling.”

The Good News organization had a response. The Good News says this about itself – “Since 1967, Good News has been the leading evangelical witness and ministry within The United Methodist Church. We are a voice for repentance, an agent for reform, and a catalyst for renewal within our denomination. Our mission is to lead all people within The United Methodist Church to the faithful and vibrant practice of orthodox Wesleyan Christianity.” Here is their response – http://goodnewsmag.org/2017/04/good-news-statement-regarding-the-judicial-councils-recent-decision/. Quoting their report – “In its dense, nineteen-page ruling the Council says many of the right things, but as so often is the case with the institutional church, it fails to take the necessary action. It leaves Oliveto in her office, and essentially remands the case to the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops. And as United Methodists have come to realize, that jurisdiction has a solid track record of defying and even mocking the church’s polity and law when it comes to its sexual ethics and teachings on marriage. Because of past decisions and statements, we have little confidence the Western Jurisdiction bishops will properly handle a case where the facts are obvious to all. It is unlikely that a penalty commensurate to the breach will be meted out swiftly.”

The Bishop in this case has been defiant all along and has decided to continue even in the face of the Judicial Council’s decision – https://juicyecumenism.com/2017/04/26/disputed-bishop-defiant-hearing-methodist-court/. Quoting from this report – “ ‘This is a pivotal moment in the life of the United Methodist Church as the Judicial Council deliberates on those whom God has called to bear fruit in the world, specifically the role gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people have in ordained ministry,’ she continued.”

The General Conference in 2016 was instructed to develop a team to develop a plan moving forward – http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward. This group is trying to find a way for the United Methodist Church to remain united in ministry even with such a difference of opinion in these and other areas. There is also a special called General Conference in 2019 (the normal sequence would have them meeting in 2020) to deal with this issue.

Our own Bishop sent this letter out – http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1116130639892&ca=c59f3289-eaa3-4cab-9257-d2d929176032. Quoting from it – “The ruling by the Council was limited to the consecration of Bishop Oliveto. They articulated that they do not have jurisdiction to review the additional elements of the petition. As to that one issue, the Council ruled that the consecration of a gay bishop violated church law. However, they further stated that they do not have the authority to nullify her consecration; therefore, she remains a bishop in good standing. The Council referred the matter back to the Western Jurisdiction for further review.”

As today’s passage says – Mark 3:25 – If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. We must find a way forward that will unit us or we will fall – even further than we have fallen for the last four decades.

Just something for us to think about today as we go on our way.


May 1, 2017 - Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Here’s an article from a pastor in CO where the gay Bishop resides and serves. – http://bobkaylor.com/pastoral-letter-regarding-umc-judicial-council-decision/ – I urge all faithful UM’s to wait it out and see what the church will look like in 2019-20.


    Comment by raymcdonald | May 1, 2017 | Reply

  2. Herd is another important article to read as we face schism. http://timothytennent.com/2017/05/01/united-methodist-judicial-council-ruling-so-now-what/.


    Comment by raymcdonald | May 2, 2017 | Reply

  3. Another interesting article – https://wesleyancovenant.org/2017/05/01/not-just-another-week-in-the-umc-by-carolyn-moore/.


    Comment by raymcdonald | May 2, 2017 | Reply

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