The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church has announced its decisions on the the Beth Stroud & Ed Johnson cases. In the first case, the findings of the original trial court – that Beth Stroud as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” could be removed from ordained ministry – were affirmed. In the second, the decision of Bishop Kammerer to suspend Rev. Ed Johnson was reversed. The root cause of his case was a refusal to take into membership an allegedly unrepentant homosexual. Both of these cases are getting lots of publicity. I haven’t seen any comments on Decision 1020, however.
Decision 1020 is about the California Nevada Annual Conference’s inclusion of two items in their proceedings:
Item 26: The California-Nevada Annual Conference hereby defines the word â€œstatusâ€ as including sexual orientation such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and transgendered.
Item 27: The California-Nevada Annual Conference hereby specifically refuses and declines to define the word â€œpracticingâ€ or Practicing homosexual.â€
The Cal-Nev AC doesn’t approve of the denominational position regarding the exclusion of self-avowed practicing homosexuals from ordained ministry. This looks like a strategy to allow them to retain the Discipline while acting in accord with their conscience. A member of the conference raised the question about whether Item 27 made Â¶ 304.3 unenforceable. Bishop Shamana ruled that the Items were in keeping with the Discipline, and thus acceptable. On appeal, the Judicial Council has approved the Bishop’s ruling.
Now I understand the Council’s ruling, but I don’t understand their statement (the part I’ve put in bold):
Question 3 concerns the annual conferenceâ€™s refusal to define the word â€œpracticingâ€ or â€œpracticing homosexual.â€ An annual conference may not adopt any item that purports to void and/or violate the enforcement or enforceability of Â¶ 304.3 of the Discipline. Refusal to define has no effect on the enforceability of Â¶304.3. The Bishopâ€™s decision of law for Question 3 is affirmed.
How does “refusal to define” not have any effect on enforceability? How can an undefined condition be enforced? Someone help me out here. Also – am I wrong to assume that the Cal-Nev Conference was trying to make the statute unenforceable?