AME Delegates Unanimously Vote Against Same-Sex Marriges : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

This is an interesting article which appeared in my local newspaper today. I don't recall any discussion about this from those on this BB who attended the Gen Con. If this "unanimous" vote is not codified in the Discipline I don't see how it can be enforced. The Judicial Council really needs to provide clarity whether this vote is somehow legally binding or just a form of religious grandstanding. See the full story below. QED

Posted on Sat, Jul. 10, 2004

AME church votes against same-sex unions

By Christina Lee Knauss


COLUMBIA, S.C. - Delegates at the national convention of the African Methodist Episcopal church voted unanimously this week not to allow any of the church's ministers to perform same-sex unions.

The 2.5 million-member, mostly black denomination is the most recent Christian group in the nation to address the hot-button issue of gay marriage.

Delegates at the AME convention in Indianapolis used a unanimous voice vote to pass the motion, which made it illegal within the denomination for any minister to perform a same-sex marriage or civil union.

The vote came without any debate, said the Rev. Joe Darby, pastor of Charleston's Morris Brown AME, who attended the conference. He said it went smoothly because members consider other issues, such as civil rights, education and the presidential election, more urgent.

"This was not a matter of major contention. We have greater fish to fry than the same-sex marriage thing," he said. "I think this vote was done so that those who would try to use it as an issue wouldn't have it as a tool."

Debate on same-sex unions and such issues as ordination of gays and lesbians has been an issue in many major Christian denominations nationwide.

Last week, members of the Presbyterian Church USA voted down a measure to allow individual presbyteries to ordain gays and lesbians to ministry or lay offices. Earlier this year, the United Methodist Church voted to maintain its doctrine that homosexuality is at odds with basic biblical teaching, and voted against ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex unions.

The AME decision did not surprise the Rev. Andy Sidden, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Columbia, which ministers largely to gays and lesbians, and performs same-sex marriage ceremonies.

"Ten years ago, the AME church wouldn't even have had this vote. At least now they're bringing it to a vote," Sidden said. "Maybe 10 years from now they'll decide differently, but African-American couples that need recognition of their love can't wait 10 years. They'll just come to churches like ours which offer that recognition."

With its vote, the AME church is the first mostly black church group to take an official vote on the topic this year. Prominent black clergy in the Baptist faith nationwide have spoken out against homosexuality in recent months as well.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004


There was discussion on one of the other GenCon threads. But what I wonder is whether this bill came up in the third reading. In the second reading it was passed without any debate (about the only bill in second reading to do so.) If it was brought up in third reading it was either passed or deleted, no debate was allowed on third reading as I understood the rules.

The greater aspect of this vote for me is that our Zion truly recognizes that we have a right to say what is acceptable for our churches. Some may criticize that the legislation did not address any of the issues in the secular realm with Gay marriage but it is clear that as a church we do not recognize any form of Gay unions and our clergy are prohibited from performing such ceremonies.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

The article is absolutely correct. The bill, which indeed was mentioned earlier in another thread on the General Conference, was read by number and title on first reading. On second reading it was passed without a single dissenting vote. The only discussion came from those who wanted to ammend the bill to make it even stronger. Their efforts to ammend were ruled out of order by the chair as the bill had already passed. The bill was reintroduced on Tuesday evening and passed Third reading without comment. It will most certinally be codified into the 2004 Discipline as it is now the law of the Church. My sense of it was that the Bill had very very strong support from the delegates. Far from "Religious Grandstanding" it spoke clearly and plainly to an issue that has needed to be addressed. The language of the bill is as follows: "No Minister whether itinerant or local shall perform any marriage ceremony or permit to be held in any of our churches, the marriage of persons of the same sex. Any miniser charged with violating this rule shall be referred to the Annual Confrence Judiciary (Ministerial Effeciency) Committee and if the charged is sustained, will be removed as a minister of the AME Church and surrender their orders to the Annual Conference.

Brother Dickens, I cannot see where the Judicial Council of the AME Church would have juristiction in this matter. As an appellate Court they have juristiction with regards to legislation passed by the General Conference only when the law in question is ambigious, unclear and subject to multiple interptations. The law as presented and adopted is none of those things.

Yours in the Joy of Jesus, Pastor Mike Barta

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

Parson Barta -

Kindly answer the following questions. Does the unanimous vote to ban AME clergy to participate in same-sex marriage mean the AME Church is officially opposed to same sex marriages and/or unions? If your response is in the affirmative, as I suspect it to be, what section in the Discipline will this new law appear? I'm aware the Compilation Committee has a major task sorting out and editing the bills for inclusion in the Discipline that's why I ask the latter question. QED

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

Professor Dickens,

There would be little doubt, I believe,in the mind of anyone (certinally not mine)in the Convention Hall at the time this legislation was introduced and voted on that the sentiment of the vast majority of the delegates at the 2004 General Conference was that the AME Church is, and should be,take a stand against same sex marriage. Having said that however, the legislation says what it says and that is all it says. It is now illegal for an Ordained Minister in our Zion to conduct a marriage ceremony between two persons of the same sex. It also now a charageable offense for any AME Minister to allow such a ceremony to be conducted on Church property. The consequences of violating this law of the Church is surrender of ones Ministerial orders....period. The beauty of this approach is that it is very much tied to conduct that makes it clear when a violation has occured; Clear, consise and certinally not subject to multiple interpretations ...just the way any good piece of legislation should be IMHO.

As to your question of where it should be placed in the discipline, I dont have the anwser to that at this moment.I will however consult my Discipline and offer up a suggestion over the next day or so for whatever it is worth.

Yours in the joy of Jesus, Pastor Mike Barta

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

Please excuse my typo: The text that reads "was that the AME Church is, and should be,take a stand against same sex marriage" should read "is and should be taking a stand against same sex marriage" I am sorry for this and any other errors. I miss the ability to spell check on this Board.

Mike Barta

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2004

Pastor Mike,

so, if an Ordained AME minister performs a same-sex marriage OFF OF CHURCH PROPERTY, it is illegal, but NOT chargeable? If that is the case, I see a potentially embarrassing situation waiting to happen.

-- Anonymous, July 11, 2004

Pastor John, No, both are chargeable offenses under the new law

Mike Barta

-- Anonymous, July 11, 2004

In relation to the location of the law within the book of discipline, my inclination is that the Compilation Committee will be guided by the numbering of the legislation. The first letters before the number of the presented bill already suggest the area within which the law will be located in the Book of Discipline. Unfortunately, I do not have the bill with me.

The law is established and clearly stated. What I think is going to be the next issue challenging the church and the clergy is ministering to those who are gays and lesbians. Do we think that the clergy is ready to meet this challenge? In my reading of the law, will I be wrong in suggesting that, in itself, the law does not condemn those who practice this lifestyle but only denies them the benefits of a union like their counterparts? Or, does it gives us the licence to bashing and condemning the lifestyle?

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2004

I attended a workshop today which provided greater clarity about the recently passed legislation (DB-1) prohibiting AME clergy from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. The language of the bill will be included in the Discipline as a matter of church law. This point was previously promulgated by our own Rev. Mike Barta in earlier contributions to this thread. Parson Barta was correct in his interpretation and I am always grateful for his careful commentary.

Now what I find interesting is the political motive apparently used to address the issue of gay marriage. The AME Church is on official record as being diametrically opposed to gay mariage. I have been unequivocal in my support of this view long before DB-1. That position and point is clear. Recent published reports in the mainstream media indicate however that our Zion is also opposed to a Constitutional Amendment which would succictly and clearly define and limit marriage between a man and a woman. Regrettably, I dissent from this 'take" about the Constitutional Amendment. AME Church officials interviewed in the media favor leaving that decision to the states rather than allowing Federal law to define marriage. The comments suggest that passage of the same-sex ban was more a politically pre-emptive strike in order for the AMEC not to be identified with favoring or promoting a homosexual agenda.

Democratic Presidential aspirant Sen. John Kerry has also made clear that he opposses both same-sex marriage and a Constitutional Amendment limiting marriage between a man and a woman. I call the Kerry position on same-sex marriage the "dual opposition policy". Comments shared at the workshop today mirrored the Kerry position on this topic. Is this just a coincidence? If the AMEC unconditionally adopts the Kerry position this will not come without adverse consequences.

For one, adopting a "states rights" view is problematic. Typically neo-liberal organizations are suspicious of states rights because of a general distruat of some states to fully protect the rights of racial minorities. If it was left up to the states, African chattel slavery could concievably endured long past 1865, poll taxes would still be used in some Southern states, women would have been denied suffrage and an 18 year old young adult would also be disenfranchised. All of those injustices were resolved via Constitutional Amendments, not by letting states determine the outcome. By opposing a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage the AMEC finds itself in an historically unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of putting her trust in states rights over Federal protection.

Second, the dual opposition policy is ambiguous when it comes to dealing with interstate mobility. This occurs when "married" gay couples in one state move to another state expecting to receive legal legitimacy in the new state. If a married Massachusettes gay couple moves to Florida because the spouse accepts a prized university position at Univ. of Florida or FAMU, current Florida law will not recognize the union as a marital arrangement. Florida's non- recognition of the "marriage" imposes tangible costs for the couple. This is similar in principle to the infamous Dred Scott Case of 1857. Nonrecognition of gay marriage in some states will only create greater confusion and promote increased social costs caused by the non-uniform policy.

Finally, the dual opposition policy casts the AMEC as favoring neutrality in the culture wars/debate. It appears to me church officials are content in not wanting to allow their theological convictions (as expressed in AME Bill DB-1) to become a social standard in addressing all matters pertaining to homosexuality. This, I believe, is the key point Rev. Klass addressed earlier in this thread. Unfortunatley, neutrality signals ambiguity and ambiguity can lead to undesirable outcomes. The AMEC ought not model itself after Switzerland. The writer of Revelation described the church at Laodicea as neither hot nor cold. Laodicea, a metaphor for neutrality, was rejected and harshly criticized by the New Testament writer because she would not take a clear and consistent stand. As I read the Holy Writ it is clear to me that fulfilling the mandate of the Gospel requires taking unpopular decisions on social issues. The AMEC is expected to be proactive on theological issues. We can leave neutrality for the residents of Switzerland. QED

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

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