September 15, 1997
Continuing the tradition of hosting worship services that celebrate and witness to same-gender covenant relationships in United Methodist churches and resisting actions that seek to withdraw this means of grace from same-gender persons is the focus of a new action group. On July 26, 1997, Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns organized the Covenant Relationships Network (CORNET) at a meeting held in Atlanta, GA.
Jeanne Knepper, co-spokesperson for Affirmation, observed, "One of the most joyous responsibilities of a pastor is to celebrate the love and commitment of couples. We cannot claim to be in ministry for and with all people if we deny covenant celebrations to lesbians and gay men."
CORNET invites United Methodists to sign a statement "A Matter of Conscience," which protests the 1996 addition to the Social Principles:, "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." The network says that the sentence in the Social Principles is not just, is not law, and conflicts with another statement in the Social Principles about being "in ministry for and with all persons."
CORNET will develop strategies for action, a support network, and theological resources for addressing attempts to block United Methodists, who, like all Christians, "Are called to minister wherever Christ would have them serve and witness in deeds and words that heal and free" (The Book of Discipline, ¶ 105)
CORNET will offer a variety of ways for United Methodists who share their concern to network with each other, including web pages and a private listserv. Its web page is at http://www.umaffirm.org/cornet/
For further information about CORNET contact:
PO Box 66147
Portland, OR 97290
For further information about Affirmation, contact:
P.O. Box 1021
Evanston, IL 60204
In April 1996, The United Methodist Church modified its Social Priniciples Statement with the addition of the words: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches" ( ¶ 65c)"
We call upon United Methodists to dissent from this teaching for the following reasons:
1. It is not just. It singles out one class of people and denies them the ministry of the church in a way that is discriminatory and cruel.
2. It is not law. By description and Judicial Council decision, the Social Principles are intended to be persuasive, not coercive. The use of proscriptive "shall not" language is out of character and out of place in this document. It is not enforceable.
3. It is in conflict with the Social Principles commitment "to be in ministry for and with all persons."
[Historical Note: Signatures to "A Matter of Conscience" are no longer being collected. It has been replaced by a clergy and laity statement about covenant services.]
¶ 105. The church as the community of the new covenant has participated in Christ's ministry of grace across the years and around the world. It stretches out to human needs wherever love and service may convey God's love and ours. The outreach of such ministries knows no limits. Beyond the diverse forms of ministry is this ultimate concern: that all persons will be brought into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and be renewed after the image of their creator (Colossians 3:10). This means that all Christians are called to minister wherever Christ would have them serve and witness in deeds and words that heal and free.