Indiana Conference Session affirms delegate moratorium on charges against pastors performing same-gendered weddings.
By Daniel R. Gangler*
The Institute on Religion and Democracy based in Washington, DC (IRD, www.theird.org) and John Lomperis, it’s United Methodist Director, received a significant warning this month from the Indiana Annual Conference Session of The United Methodist Church, one of the nation’s largest annual conferences and a bellwether for denominational opinion and direction.
A non-binding resolution, submitted by the Rev. Jacob C. Williams, a retired elder and former conference superintendent, was approved June 12 by 56.9 percent of the conference’s voting members during its annual session online originating from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion. The Williams Resolution asked the Indiana delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences to refrain from pursuing complaints and charges against clergy who performed same-gendered weddings. The resolution directed Indiana’s conference members towards the highest aspirations of Christian Conferencing and named the actions of Lomperis and the IRD as that which should be avoided according to standards of Christian conferencing laid out by Wesley.
The resolution further called on Indiana delegates “to refrain from inciting or offering material assistance to others in filing similar charges, particularly when the purpose of these charges has been clearly stated as an attempt to further damage and undermine our adjudicatory system and deliberative processes.” The resolution was strengthened by an amendment by the Rev. Cyndi Alte, a retired clergy person, who specified refraining from filing charges against clergy “as those charges and complaints relate to same gender weddings or LGBTQIA+ clergy.”
In February with the announced postponement of General Conference to 2022, Lomperis questioned whether it was time to pursue new complaints and charges against “renegade UMC clergy who betraying our denomination’s prohibition of clergy committing sexual immorality or officiating at pastorally harmful same-sex weddings?”
Specifically, the Williams Resolution was concerned with the efforts of Lomperis and the IRD to encourage and assist in the filing of charges for individuals who violate the denomination’s current Book of Discipline standards regarding LGBTQ+ persons for the express purpose of hastening schism and division in The United Methodist Church. This call was made in IRD’s JuicyEcumenism.com blogpost.
The Indiana delegation passed a non-binding agreement in December 2019 placing a moratorium “on clergy performing same-sex weddings and that clergy and laity will not file charges from now on until General Conference from within the delegation.” Some 80 percent of North Central Jurisdictional delegates present (of which the Indiana delegation is a part) adopted a non-binding moratorium in November 2019 on “complaints, charges, and trials related to officiating same-gender weddings and LGBTQIA+ identity and credentialing.”
Lomperis, an Indiana Conference lay-delegate to denomination’s General Conference (2016, 2020), did not sign either moratorium. Even though he is a member of a United Methodist Church in Indiana, he has not lived in Indiana. According to online information, he currently lives with his wife in Portland, Oregon. She is an assistant professor at George Fox University and Portland Seminary, according to the university’s website. Previously, he and his wife lived in Chicago, Ill. He continues his work with the IRD.
*Gangler is a retired United Methodist communicator who lives in Indianapolis