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March-30-2007  

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"United Methodism officially declares that homosexual practice, like other sex outside of marriage, is 'incompatible with Christian teaching.'" -- UMAction Executive Director Mark Tooley

WASHINGTON, Mar. 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- The homosexual man who precipitated the two year national controversy over the Rev. Ed Johnson has been accepted as a member at South Hill United Methodist Church in South Hill, Virginia by Rev. Johnsonís successor. Two years ago, then pastor Ed Johnson had declined immediate church membership for the homosexual man, who was cohabitating with his same-sex partner. Bishop Charlene Kammerer intervened, demanding immediate church membership for the homosexual man. When Johnson refused, the bishop put him on unpaid administrative leave. Rev. Johnson was restored to his pulpit at South Hill in Fall 2005. But in Spring 2006, Bishop Kammerer moved him to another congregation. Rev. Johnsonís successor at South Hill accepted the homosexual man into membership this month, presumably with the full support of Bishop Kammerer.

UMAction Executive Director Mark Tooley releases the following statement:

"This complex story is not about homosexuality per se, but about the meaning of church membership. Liberal bishops and caucus groups insist that church membership is an automatic right. But traditionalists have a more nuanced understanding, believing that church members should seriously strive to live up to their membership vows.

"In October 2005, the United Methodist Churchís Judicial Council overruled Bishop Kammerer, declaring that local pastors have discretion about who is ready for church membership. The church court did not directly address the issue of church membership and homosexual practice. United Methodism officially declares that homosexual practice, like other sex outside of marriage, is 'incompatible with Christian teaching.' The denomination does not ordain active homosexuals and expects celibacy of unmarried clergy. But the denomination has no specific law about homosexual practice and church membership.

"Bishop Kammerer has advocated that all persons who apply for church membership must be automatically enrolled. Rev. Johnson held to a more traditional Methodist
view that church members must be ready to live within church teachings. While pastor at South Hill, Rev. Johnson had welcomed the homosexual man, who sang in the church choir. But Rev. Johnson had thought more counseling was needed before church membership was appropriate.

"Despite pressures and punishments from his bishop, Rev. Johnson strove to uphold the traditional Wesleyan understanding that church membership is a special vocation,
not an automatic right. The traditional understanding, with its focus on conversion, helped Methodism become Americaís largest church in the 19th century. The Ďinclusivistí understanding has fueled United Methodismís loss of 3 million members over the last 40 years in the U.S. So who is genuinely more inclusive?"

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