News and Views

Ordination makes history on many levels

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on

 Updated June 3, 10:45 a.m.

One of the high holy moments of any Annual Conference Session is the service of commissioning, reception and ordination. The 235th BWC Session was no different, but in many ways, totally different than any other in its storied past.

That’s because, for the first time, two openly gay candidates were approved by the Clergy Session: one for commissioning and one for ordination. It is the Clergy Session, acting on behalf of the Annual Conference, that approves – or “elects” – candidates to ordained and commissioned ministry. Paragraph 33 of the Book of Discipline states that the “annual conference is the basic body in the Church,” and thus has certain rights. One of those rights is dealing with “all matters relating to the character and conference relations of its clergy members, and on the ordination of clergy…”

Thus, at the worship service May 31, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling commissioned Tara Cressler “TC” Morrow as a provisional Deacon and ordained the Rev. Joey Heath-Mason as a full Elder. Both Morrow and Heath-Mason are married to people of the same gender.

“I am feeling so wonderful right now,” said Morrow immediately after the service, “and so surrounded by love and people that have been working for this day. I think this is an important day in the life of The United Methodist Church and whatever God is continuing to do in us and through us.”

Morrow, who attended the 2019 Special Session of General Conference as an observer, said she left there with a “strong word from God.” That word, she said, was “stay the course.”

That Special Session passed legislation reinforcing the stance that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” It also adopted stronger penalties for clergy who conduct same-gender weddings, something also prohibited. Most of the newly adopted Traditional Plan takes effect January 1, 2020.

Commissioning in the UMC is next-to-last step towards full membership and ordination. Morrow, who works at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in Washington, said she continues on that track and prayerfully expects to be ordained a full-member Deacon in three years.

“We don’t know where we’ll be in three years as a denomination,” she said, “but I will continue to be on the path to ordination.”

Heath-Mason, who serves as a chaplain at American University in Washington, said after the service that he, too, was overjoyed and thankful.

“It feels a little surreal,” he said. “This was never supposed to happen — at least the church says so — but God had other plans.”

Both Heath-Mason and Morrow are members of the Queer Clergy Caucus, and pledge to be active in the future of whatever’s next for the church.

“Something new is coming,” Heath-Mason said. “Whether it is a birthing or a reforming… something new is coming and I’ll continue to work at it and make it possible for others to follow behind me.”

Heath-Mason also takes his ordination and Morrow’s commissioning as a sign that God isn’t done with the church just yet.

“God is still speaking and moving,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is calling us somewhere, even if we don’t quite understand it. God is calling us to do work that we can’t even comprehend, but that work is going to include everyone.”

The service was also historic because, for perhaps the first time, a bishop commissioned her husband as a Provisional Elder. Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, resident bishop of the Pittsburgh Area, and a daughter of the BWC, returned home to commission her husband, Rafael Koikoi Jr.

“I knew that she was going to be a part of the service,” said Koikoi. “But I’m kneeling there, and I feel hands on my shoulder, and there’s something familiar about the hands. And then I hear her voice and all I can think is, ‘What a God moment.’ At a time when the church says we’re splitting up, here you find a husband being blessed by his wife.”

Bishop Moore-Koikoi said it was a wonderful experience to commission her husband, and that she felt the presence of God in a powerful way. As she was commissioning him, she raised her right hand high in the air and her voice crackled with emotion.

“I was receiving from heaven and imparting to my husband,” she said. “That level of intimacy was witnessed by thousands of people was just phenomenal to me.”

Bishop Moore-Koikoi, who was a clergy member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference when she was elected a bishop in 2016, said she asked her husband what he wanted her to be in the moment of commissioning: her wife or a bishop. His response: “Both.”

The service was also historic because, for perhaps the first time, an infant joined his parents in ordination. The Rev. Lemuel Dominguez was ordained accompanied by his wife, the Rev. Bonnie McCubbin, and their son, 18-month old Abraham. 

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, in her sermon, reminded the newly commissioned and those about to be ordained that they were not volunteers, but servants.

Volunteers, she said, decide when they’ll show up, how they’ll show up and for whom they’ll show up. “You are servants of the living God,” she said. “Lose yourself in the service of others.”

Bishop Easterling commended the class for continuing to follow their call even after the Special Session of General Conference earlier this year.

“You felt the tectonic shift and you have continued to say yes, anyhow,” she said. “You are entering the ministry in a time in the church not seen in 150 years.”

The bishop ended her sermon with the same charge she gave the graduating class at Wesley Theological Seminary: today marks the end of a season of your journey, she said, but your time of formation is not over.

“Love the people,” she said. “Love the people.”

Not all people in the BWC were happy with the bishop’s decision to commission and ordain. Pastor Patricia Bittner, who serves the Flintstone Charge, said during a moment of personal privilege Friday afternoon that by commissioning two candidates “who we all know do not meet the requirements, we are openly and blatantly disregarding our current Book of Discipline guidelines. As our Bishop, representing all the people in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, I feel that if they are commissioned and ordained this evening, you are sanctioning this disobedient action and possibly encouraging further disobedience to our Book of Discipline, thus creating more division among us.”

Leigh Anne Bell Jun 1, 2019 3:58pm

The Book of Discipline is outdated and the church needs to follow the teachings of Jesus to love everyone. By leaving people out, we are not showing love. I for one support the LGQBT

Rick Jun 1, 2019 4:14pm

The Bishop should be ashamed as should those who support this. Let me know which pages in the Book of Discipline and Bible I should remove so my kids don’t offend the 1%.

Ava Swofford Jun 1, 2019 4:15pm

Thanks for doing the right thing. At one time the church did not ordain women, sanctioned slavery, etc. etc.

Angie Jun 1, 2019 4:29pm

I commend the Bishops for doing this. This only furthers the belief that the UMC cannot stay together as a United Church. The total disregard for the GC2019 ruling this year is making more churches go against the new policy and others (WCA) digging their feet in cement. What happens to these newly ordained ministers come January 2020. Will they be sanctioned and later defrocked.
When something is so broken it cannot be repaired time after time, it is time to get a new one and start again.

Tracy Turner Jun 1, 2019 6:22pm

Blatant disregard for the scriptures.

Anonymous Jun 1, 2019 7:19pm

What a joke! More reasons to leave the UMC

Holly Jun 2, 2019 2:39am

From the Oregon-Idaho conference, I say, "Way to go!" Congrats to all!

Blaney Jun 2, 2019 9:02am

Unfortunately, if this type of action continues, many of us will be forced to worship elsewhere and the UMC leaves its traditional members.

Judy Jun 2, 2019 10:39am

So glad to see our leaders in touch with Jesus' teachings and willing to stand up to the hypocrisy of the Traditional Plan.

Linda Jun 2, 2019 11:51am

Jesus did not teach that homosexuality is OK. In fact, everything He taught was in accordance with God's eternal Ho!y laws. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the seven churches. We are now in the Laodicean age. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sexual perversion. Paul writes in Romans 1 and other NT passages what will happen to those who engage in such practices. God sanctified marriage between one man and one woman. Adultery and fornication are also sins which does not allow heterosexuals to be off the hook. God is the same and He will judge those who deliberately disobey His commandments and arrogantly profess His name while doing it.

Gary Whatley Jun 2, 2019 2:31pm

It is truly a very sad day. Blatant disregard for holiness and respect for scripture and for the UMC.

Eriberto Soto Jun 2, 2019 8:43pm

This blatant disregard of Scripture and the BOD only confirms that the UMC should consider an amicable separation!! No side will bend on this issue.

Penny Jun 2, 2019 10:04pm

God will win this battle in the end! I’m claiming the victory for His Holy Word and praying for all who are going against the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes , we must love one another, but we must also follow His Word!

Josh B Jun 3, 2019 11:47am

I'm just surprised every time I hear it the absolute misunderstanding of the word "love". Jesus calls us to agape love, which is doing what is good for others, regardless of emotion or personal preference. Jesus never called us to "philos" which is the love people advocate for. Philos is the love of preference and affinity. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter to "agape" him, but all Peter can offer is "philos". Eventually, Peter gets to "agape" love. Jesus does not call us to philos one another, where we simply honor what people like and feel. Jesus calls us to agape one another, which is to serve them for the good of that person and the good of God's world.

Anonymous Jun 3, 2019 1:07pm

Very sad day. Which ever side your on. We are truly no longer United

Lisa T Jun 3, 2019 6:50pm

Wonderful! Courageous! Inspiring! Loving! Forward!

Emily Jun 3, 2019 6:55pm

Oh, when will the UMC realize that this IS the 21st Century??? Even in the late 20th century, we learned that being LBGTQAI was a matter of how we are born?

carla skidmore, RN (retired) Jun 3, 2019 6:59pm

Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God. Brothers, we are treading where we've always trod. Some lack hope, some lack love, and all lack charity. Sing this to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers. LMAO

Brenda H Jun 3, 2019 7:01pm

Did the people having so much trouble following the laws of the umc read the laws before choosing to become a part of the church, or could these be the same people who have worked to also destroy other denominations???

Jerry J. Jun 3, 2019 7:13pm

The UMC has to divide. The members are too divided to ever come together. Lord have mercy!

Nona Colbert Jun 3, 2019 7:28pm

We have a tendency to use Scripture to defend our arguments. This is wrong. We also have a tendency to judge. That is also wrong. Both are tendencies are wrong and if you want to use Scripture to defend it, you can, because Scripture speaks on both. See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV) and Matthew 7:1-3 (KJV) respectively. The third, and perhaps the most egregious thing we have a tendency to do, especially as professed Christians, is to proclaim who God has called and who he has not called. When Jesus commissioned the disciples to take the Gospel and make disciples of the world, this was an inclusive, not exclusive, command. I have found no where in Scripture that says who cannot preach the Gospel. Also, we have a tendency to ascribe to Jesus things the Scriptures do not confirm. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and by your words you will be justified and by your words you will condemn (Matt. 12:37). Jesus’s gave one last commandment to his disciples before ascending. He said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34). Where there is love, there is unity. 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love Chapter. I think we need to re-read it and abide in love because love casteth our fear.

Mark Jun 3, 2019 7:29pm

My father, 5 uncles, and grandfather--all deceased Methodist ministers--are likely turning over in their graves over this abomination of fundamental beliefs.

Mark S. Jun 3, 2019 7:37pm

This is much, much worse than sad it is heresy. God told Moses and he wrote it down. Did Moses make it up? If so then all of the law is in question. Murder, theft, adultery, etc. are in question because evidently Moses just went up that mountain and made all this up. Absurd isn’t it!! We call ourselves United Methodists. We talk about the fact we are connected. If so, the Bishops have made me complicit in their heresy. I know this sounds harsh but I believe in scripture and I don’t see an answer except for our church to admit we are broken and split.

Tom Jun 3, 2019 7:42pm

The scripture teaches that Jesus loves sinners but does not condone sinful behavior. The BWC is stretching Jesus' teachings by condoning sinful behavior based on love and defying both the scriptures and the approved traditional plan. You are doing a great job of destroying the UMC based on personal desires.

Dale Beck Jun 3, 2019 7:51pm

It's a good day for Methodism and the witness of Wesley. Thank God for those with the courage to live God's love when it is not easy.

Mike Jun 3, 2019 9:09pm

Pray that biblical scriptures will be upheld within the UMC.

BethanyAlliesAustin Jun 3, 2019 9:36pm

Good News BWC leadership! Stay the course!

William Board Jun 3, 2019 10:22pm

Why would anyone want to belong to an organization that has bylaws that says their behavior is not compatible with the organization? Why would anyone, professing to be a Christian and believing in God's word, purposely sin in front of God and all humanity? The only reason, would be to destroy Christianity and the UMC.

Cheryl Corney Jun 4, 2019 12:10am

Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law but He did not abolish the moral law. How can we celebrate sin? We don't celebrate lying, do we? I don't think we celebrate robbery or murder? Why do we want to celebrate sinful sexual behaviors?
God will not put up with this rebellion much longer!

Evans K. Malo Jun 4, 2019 12:28am

This is simply rebelliousness. The negative consequences of rebelliousness shall come to pass.

Bob L Jun 4, 2019 12:45am

Ironically, these situations have zero to do with LGBT+ pros or cons. It’s about as black and white as possible. The UMC has rules and guidelines. These ordinations violate them. It matters not that they are broken with a belief that they are somehow wrong. What’s the point of having any rules if we aren’t going to follow them anyway?

Josephus Copper Jun 4, 2019 5:18am

A sad day in the UMC indeed!!

Anonymous Jun 4, 2019 7:08am

So very sad! The book of discipline is your job discription. Follow it go through proper voting procedures live with what the outcome of the vote was. Work on change if that’s what you desire, but don’t sin in the process.

Bill P Jun 4, 2019 8:12am

So we bend the word to please flesh

Anonymous Jun 4, 2019 8:12am

These Bishops truly do not have the BIBLE and the Methodist Church or it's membership at heart. It's a way they think they are making history by changing the UMC book of discipline and the BIBLE. They are only destroying the UM Church.

Anonymous Jun 4, 2019 9:38am

My heart is sad to what the world has become today. God is a merciful God. He tells us in the Bible we are not to add anything or take away anything in the Bible. We want things pleasing to us today. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I don't know how much longer I am going to stay with the UM Church. I WILL NOT SIT UNDER ANYONE THAT LGBT and to try and teach me the word of God. This is the life that they have chosen, then deal with not being able to be a bishop, pastor, elder or deacon. I pray God almighty have mercy on our souls.

Fred S Jun 4, 2019 10:21am

Paul warned the Corinthians that they were not free to live as they wanted. Wonder what Paul would write to the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC?

Anonymous Jun 4, 2019 1:11pm

As a cradle Methodist, I am appalled at the resistance to the Book of Discipline. As a volunteer in Boy Scouting for over 52 years, I watched very sadly as the LGBTwhatever group and the ACLU dismantle the greatest program for boys ever devised. The BSA could no longer afford the court costs and of course, acquiesced to whatever the'others ' wanted. I have watched a president go through barriers of resistance that no other president has had to. All because election results were not able to be accepted by the losing party. And now this. Different venue. Same technique. Resist at all costs. Doesn't matter. Resist is the mantra of the day say they. Churchgoers are laity too and volunteers. They can vote with their feet or grant that same right to the resisting dissidents who cannot accept the results of the GC2019 vote.

David T Jun 4, 2019 1:38pm

Another act of blatant disobedience to the rules of the UMC (not to mention Scripture), another nail in the coffin of any pretense of unity in the "United" (untied?) Methodist Church. It's time to stop the fighting, stop the disobedience, stop the church trials, our two sides agree to peaceably separate, bless each other, and go our separate ways to minister as we believe God has called us.

Andy Jun 4, 2019 1:53pm

This Methodist church is not the one I joined, years ago.

Ken Jun 4, 2019 5:42pm

The leadership of the B-W conference should be ashamed of itself for the cowardly way they elected openly gay candidates. If this was such a big moment, why was the process changed to ensure it was all candidates or none. If this was what the majority of the leadership wanted each candidate should have been voted on according to their merits and ability to meet the qualifications. Even if this means some heterosexual individuals would not have been ordained due to their unfaithfulness in marriage or celibacy in singleness.

It also shows a lack of Christian leadership when you don't even follow your own book of discipline. Why should I follow any of the book of discipline when it appears we can do anything we want if what is written doesn't suit our desires.

How, as the leadership of my church, do I trust and have confidence in you as required by the book of discipline? What other church doctrine are you going to ignore?

Ronnie Jun 4, 2019 6:15pm

Not sure this was done out of love or rebellion. The future is going to be turbulent.

Jack G Jun 5, 2019 6:59am

It's time for a church split. That will be the only way. You go your own ways. We stay orthodox and conservative.

Joy Jun 5, 2019 12:17pm

Congratulations to the two who were commissioned/ordained! As a member of the BWC, I am heartened by this news. Good work Bishop Easterling!

MarilynTaplin Jun 5, 2019 2:19pm

Most of us know God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of us believe God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God, the Bible and Jesus are all against unnatural sex acts. I am amazed that anyone would believe Jesus would override God and form a Christianity that is just like Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe Christianity needs a complete do over.
Jesus is promised to come at the end and put an end to sin. When this happens all those in bondage to sin will repent and return to God. My book, A Law from Eden, explains the sin that began in Eden.

Marilyn Jun 5, 2019 4:28pm

A remnant is a small portion of the original left at the end. “Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been as Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9). At the end of the age the majority of the earth’s population will be like Sodom and Gomorrah. Only a few are not guilty of committing oral and anal sex. Put Jesus at the end and he will stand with the remnant. From there he will say, “Hear the words of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 1:10). There will be deliverance from these sins that began in Eden and when deliverance comes we will have heaven on earth.

Jane Malone Jun 5, 2019 5:01pm

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Mary M Jun 5, 2019 7:49pm

I agree with the writer who said the scriptures can be used as a weapon or a balm. Thank you for using it as a balm

Harold Jun 5, 2019 9:10pm

The Reformation resulted in a gift to the church. That gift is the doctrine that everyone has access to God without the need for a clergy intermediary. Everyone can pray, and read and interpret scripture for themselves. My parents gave me a gift. That gift is to read and to think for myself. Eloquent interpretive sermons from gifted orators can be persuasive. However, I do not need professional clergy to interpret the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I can do that for myself because I read and understand the English language that my mother taught me.

marilyn Jun 6, 2019 12:49pm

Harold you are so right. In Romans 1:29-31 a list is given of what comes out of the minds of those given to unnatural sex. The list is long and murder is on that list. If no one committed the sex of Sodom and Gomorrah no murders would be committed. We need a better understanding of LOVE. If all people would love each other no one would produce an environment that would produce a murder or a child molester. God is love - Satan is hate. To serve Satan is hateful to all people.

Shawn Jun 6, 2019 1:44pm

Way to go!

Randy Jun 6, 2019 10:39pm

To all of the traditionalists who are talking about leaving due to this lack of integrity and blatant disregard of scripture & the BoD, we need to maintain our own integrity. In answering the historic questions asked at ordination, we are pledged to uphold the Discipline and to defend the church against false doctrine. In order to do so, it appears that there is coming a period of struggle, of church trials and the resulting bad press from our liberal news media here in the US, but in order to fulfill our promise before God, we must stay and defend the true faith. We didn't become UM clergy because it was gonna be easy, now did we?

Mark E Jun 7, 2019 7:44am

Selective citation of the Gospel to affirm one's own personal beliefs is an affront to our Holy God. If we're going to cite the Love Chapter, we must not omit verse 6, for among the things "Love does and does not do, "it does not rejoice in unrighteousness." And we find over and over in the pages of the OT and NT, that God has a perfect plan for marriage and family, and that plan is one man and one woman. Over and over, he identifies the world's perversion of that plan as something he detests. How we can celebrate that as something He approves, is only possible by selectively approving in our own mind some Scripture, while whole-heartedly rejecting other Scripture. I cannot reject and ignore God's clear identification of sin simply because I find it awkward to say to someone, this behavior is wrong and this behavior will ultimately separate you from the love of God. It is the behavior (acting on sexual desires that defy God's clear instruction), not the person, which God detests. And he detests the behavior because it is an affront to His holiness and who He made us to be and how He intends for us to live. It is truly a sad day in UMC when , in the name of "love" we exalt unrighteousness.

Bill Jun 7, 2019 9:32am

Now we have two problems. 1. New ministers who are not fully qualified according to the Scriptures and the Book of Discipline. 2. A Bishop and Board of Ordained Ministers who wantonly and illegal violate our UMC Doctrine. I have no faith or confidence in them. Time for some Judicial Council action and consequences.

Anthony Leo Lawless Jun 8, 2019 8:30am

We can be kind, loving of our neighbors and respectful of others beliefs and also respectfully disagree. We can also be friends.

Carl Jun 8, 2019 9:00pm

The Scripture said the leaders of these conferences are going to Hell and taking all of these
followers with them . They are all blind to God's word

Liz Jun 10, 2019 11:20am

Amen, Bishop Easterling! May we have room in our hearts to live and serve alongside all people. I was fearful for many years of this change--then our son came out. Initially my husband and I went to reparative Christian therapy to heal the "wound" in ourselves that we had allegedly passed to our son making him gay. We begged God to change him. After a lot of money spent on reparative therapy, and hours of prayer, God brought about a great change--in us! Amen and hallelujah!

Sarah Jun 19, 2019 2:11am

James 4:11-12 tells us that we have no right judge others. Those of you who judge others are not the law. God is the law and will stand judgment over you all. I for one hope to stand before him and be able to say "I have lived my life as I saw fitting of a good woman. Not because I followed your teachings, but because the things I did were the right things. I can not change the way I lived my life and I will not apologize for it."

Tom Jun 19, 2019 5:20pm

Will our Bishop and Conference leadership call it a "Holy Spirit moment" when congregations refuse to accept the blatant disregard for not only our BOD but the decisions of multiple General Conferences by our Bishop, BOoM and clergy? Or maybe when they put their "mission shares" in an escrow account instead of sending them off to the Conference Treasurer until there is compliance? I seriously don't think so. Amicable separation must now be on the table so that we all can follow our convictions and get about the mission and ministry God has called us to both traditional and progressive - and all in between.

Peter Saderholm Jun 20, 2019 11:31am

I am just now reading this article and I have a huge smile on my face. I have been so disgusted by the reaction and decisions made by the United Methodist Church over the issue of ordination and marriage of Gay people that I have almost given up hope for any sign of Christian Love on these issues. So now I am cleaning out my e-mails and here is a BOLD Statement by the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference and Bishop Easterling to support what I think is the correct and proper and Christian action concerning these issues. Until official church bodies take a stand like this there will never be a start to correct the errors of the past. Thank You.