The Executive Committee of the Iowa Conference Board of Ordained Ministry has said that “sexual orientation or gender identity” will not be criteria to “deny any candidate’s ability to live up to our United Methodist standards for fitness” for ministry. The Committee also cited a footnote to paragraph 310 of the Book of Discipline which states, in part, “The United Methodist Church has moved away from prohibitions of specific acts, for such prohibitions can be endless.”
In a unanimous action, dated June 8, 2017, the nineteen Executive Board members stated that its action is in response to two decisions of the Judicial Council. Their statement, which was brought to the clergy session of the Iowa Conference on June 10, was offered to remind “all present that according to the Book of Discipline that the primary purpose of the Board of Ordained Ministry is ‘to examine applicants and assess their fitness to ministry.’”
Decisions no. 1343 and 1344 of the Judicial Council have essentially the same ruling - that “candidates for licensed or ordained ministry…should be treated fairly and denial of entry must be based upon the evidence received from the results of the full examination.” Any single factor from among “race, gender, sexuality, integrity, indebtedness” or other criteria listed in paragraphs 304.2, 305, 306, and 310 cannot, therefore, be considered in isolation. Number 1343 was brought following a bishop’s decision of law in the New York Annual Conference and 1344 was issued in response to a bishop’s decision in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.
The Executive Committee of the Iowa Conference Board of Ordained Ministry recognized “that the members of the Iowa Annual Conference are not of one mind when it comes to credentialing LGBTQ persons.” Further, they referred to the work of the Commission on a Way Forward (http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward) which was the focus or a recent week of prayer in Iowa.
“Our board will continue to be in prayerful discernment, conversation, and action about these rulings,” said the Executive Committee, with a particular focus on “how they may affect our examination process moving forward. A recent publication of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry – “Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness,” will be used as a guide in that reflection.