A new front seems to have opened in the fight for decency.
More than 600 United Methodist clergy and laity are bringing church law charges against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The details were announced today, in a press release by the United Methodist Church:
The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.
Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church.
All are categories listed in 2702.3 as chargeable offenses for a professing member of a local church.
(You can read the “June 18 statement” here.)
It should be noted that the Methodist Book of Discipline (which is not available for download, but can be read online) includes specific procedures to handle such issues, and those methods are theoretically in play with formal charges against Sessions:
The Book of Discipline allows for a church trial and even expulsion of a lay member, but the first step in a long process would be for the member’s pastor and district superintendent to solve the complaint through “pastoral steps,” Lawrence said.
Now, hold the huzzahs — as the media release notes, there’s virtually no precedent for such charges proceeding past the level of local/district pastoral counseling. So, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for a church trial.
Having said that, this is still important.
This is a large body of believers, from a mainline Protestant denomination, saying, “We are going to hold you accountable to the faith you profess.” Regardless of the outcome, a significant group of Sessions’ religious contemporaries have looked at his words and actions and said, “You’re claiming to be one of us, but this isn’t who we are.”
Denominational leadership has already spoken on this subject, in a statement released on June 15th:
To argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.
Jesus is our way, our truth, our life. The Christ we follow would have no part in ripping children from their mothers’ arms or shunning those fleeing violence. It is unimaginable that faith leaders even have to say that these policies are antithetical to the teachings of Christ.
The Trump Administration implemented these policies. They have the power to stop these horrific actions. Join me in calling on the Department of Justice, and especially on our fellow United Methodist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to immediately reverse these decisions.
That statement was written by Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, who leads the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Their building is adjacent to the US Capitol, and this message appeared on their marquee two days ago:
The sign (below) at the United Methodist Board of Church and Society building adjacent to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. I am proud to be a United Methodist minister. pic.twitter.com/OCetUXgitW
— Rev. Dr. Michele Shields (@kahumikala) June 17, 2018
It would seem that Dr. Henry-Crowe and her team are well-versed in snark. *grin*
In closing — while I am not a Methodist, I applaud these actions and look forward to seeing how the issue progresses through Methodist polity.