Bishop Responds to Judicial Council Ruling

Bishop Responds to Judicial Council Ruling

11/1/2016

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members
of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”
-Ephesians 2:19, NRSV
 
The Judicial Council recently issued a ruling on the bishop’s Decision of Law in the New York Annual Conference concerning whether or not the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry is required to ascertain whether a candidate meets the qualifications for candidacy and ordained ministry, including whether or not she or he is exhibiting “fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness” or is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
 
The Judicial Council affirmed the ruling in part and reversed the ruling in another part, remanding the ruling back to the bishop for a specific ruling on those parts. 
 
I respect the Judicial Council's ruling that questions 3 & 4 are moot and hypothetical.  Those questions were related to situations that had not yet taken place and, hence, were hypothetical in nature and not within the purview of the Judicial Council. I also respect their request that there be a ruling on questions 1 & 2.  Those questions were concerning the responsibilities of the Board of Ordained Ministry in ascertaining “whether a candidate meets the qualifications for candidacy and ordained ministry,” and to what degree a Board of Ordained Ministry can recommend candidates to the clergy session of an Annual Conference.  The Judicial Council has sent those two questions back and asked for a specific ruling to be made on each of them.  Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, who was the interim bishop at the time of this request, will therefore make those rulings at the request of the Judicial Council in anticipation of their next meeting.
 
What this means, quite simply, is that there is more work to be done.  As this work is being done, I would ask that you join me in praying for Bishop Middleton as she prepares her ruling and for the Judicial Council as they respond to it.  And, even as we pray, I believe that we should continue to focus on our ministry as an Annual Conference.  There are lives that need to be touched by the grace and love of Christ in our midst.  I pray that we will keep our eyes focused on the work God has called us to as servant leaders. 
 
I want to express how deeply grateful I am to the Conference BOOM for their past and present work. They have and do act with intentionality and integrity, and I look forward to working with them moving forward as we discern God's call for ourselves, our Annual Conference, and the candidates who are responding to the call that God has put on their hearts.
 
I also want to share my commitment to being supportive of the persons directly affected by this matter.  I have been blessed by the character, authenticity, and genuine nature of call within those persons who have been recently commissioned and ordained. Throughout this Annual Conference we have an abundance of called and committed people who are faithfully living out their calling from God.  This includes members of the LGBTQI community who continue to feel marginalized and who experience deep hurt in the midst of the church’s ongoing struggle.   My prayer is that each of us can be supportive of the many and various ways in which God is using us to bless the church, the people of this region, and the world as a whole.
 
I recognize that we in the New York Annual Conference are not of one mind on this issue.  However, it is my hope that we will continue to provide space so that ministry can unfold in the midst of varied contexts and theological expressions.  While there is still work to be done and decisions that must be made by our Judicial Council, I would hope that we will commit ourselves as an Annual Conference to the ongoing and important work before all of us, lay and clergy alike, to the ministry of disciple-making in the New York Annual Conference.
 
I fully believe that there is a way through all that we are facing.  And, I am committed to leading us through these days with a conviction that God is greater than any obstacle we may face and that God will provide a way for the church to be the full expression of what God intends.  I pray that you will join me in those efforts.
 
May Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus speak to us today.  Each of us are a part of the household of God, claimed, called and loved by Christ Jesus our Lord, the cornerstone of who we are and who we are called to be.
 
Finally, I would call everyone to serious and intentional times of prayer and centering so that God may continue to speak to us and work through us with grace and unconditional love.  May others look to us as a significant example of how people of differing viewpoints can work together and, more importantly, love one another.
 
May it be so.
 
The Journey Continues, . . .
 
Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop