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Methodists Urged to End Gay Clergy Ban

Methodists Urged to End Gay Clergy Ban

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Thirty-three retired United Methodist bishops this week called on the church to end its ban on gay clergy, the United Methodist News Service reports.

In a document titled "A Statement of Counsel to the Church -- 2011," the bishops urge the church to remove language from its Book of Discipline stating that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" cannot be ordained as ministers.

The signatories, led by (pictured, from left) Donald A. Ott and Sharon Z. Rader, point out that the church has ended discrimination on the basis of race or gender, and say it should do the same regarding sexual orientation. "The historic tests of 'gifts and evidence of God's grace' for ordained ministry override ... race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation," they write.

Rader said she was moved by her discussions with the many gay and lesbian students she met when she worked at a Methodist seminary in Evanston, Ill. "Those conversations were very convincing for me," she said.

Neither the church's Council of Bishops nor the council's executive committee has discussed the statement, said the council's executive secretary, Neil L. Irons. He noted that while there have been other calls to end the gay ban, this is the largest number of retired bishops to make a public statement on the matter; they represent about 40% of all retired bishops.

Only the church's General Conference, which meets every four years, can change the Book of Discipline. Delegates have voted consistently to keep the ban. The next gathering will be in 2012.

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