By Erik Alsgaard, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The Board of Ordained Ministry of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, meeting last month, recommended Tara “T.C.” Morrow for commissioning as a Provisional Deacon. Morrow is a woman married to another woman.
The Board is making public what is normally a confidential personnel matter in an effort to be as transparent and open as possible, according to its chair, the Rev. Charles Parker.
Both Parker and the Board are fully aware that the 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church states that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve” in the church (¶304.3).
The church further states in ¶2702.1(b) that being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” is a chargeable offense that could result in a clergy person being placed on trial and losing their credentials.
“Two people of the same gender being married or living together is a basis for investigation,” Parker said, “not a basis for a decision,” citing ruling 1263 of the Judicial Council – the church’s version of the United States Supreme Court.
“Self-avowed” is defined by the Book of Discipline (footnote 1 for ¶304.3) where a person has “openly acknowledged to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee on ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual.”
“Practicing,” Parker said, according to Judicial Council rulings 1027 and 980, is understood to mean “genital sex” with a person of the same gender.
In the case of Morrow, he said, “we all know that she is married. We can make assumptions, but we don’t tend to question candidates on their specific sexual practices whether they are hetero or homosexual.” Parker said that he believes the Board is on “solid disciplinary grounds.”