Does the BOM Have to Ascertain . . .
The Council heard back from the bishop of the New York Annual Conference (see JCD 1330) and ruled on whether or not the Board of Ordained Ministry was to ascertain possible violation of the homosexuality laws in the current Discipline, despite the Board's decision to not investigate the sexual preferences of candidates.
The Council agreed with the bishop that if the Board found "by extrinsic evidence or self-admission" that a candidate was a self-avowed practicing homosexual, they could not submit their name for conference membership and ordination. They disagreed with the bishop as to the extent to which the Board had to go to ascertain that.
There apparently had been several candidates who announced their being practicing homosexuals during Annual Conference and the Council felt that such an announcement met the requirement for self-avowal. That met the standard definition of to whom self-avowal is addressed, one of which is the clergy session. See the footnote #1 to Paragraph 304.3.
The Council did point out, "Candidates for licensed or ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church should be treated fairly and denial of entry must be based upon the evidence received from the results of the full examination."
"Full examination" was defined this way: "There is a variety of methods to accomplish its investigative responsibility, ranging from evaluating written exams, conducting personal interviews, to reading social media postings of candidates." They thus disagreed with the bishop who did not feel there was any way of "ascertaining with certainty."
What stands out here is that the Council is now saying that social media postings by a candidate are the equivalent of giving their self-admission to the clergy session. That is similar to their decision in JCD 1341 about public documents like marriage licenses being the same as self-avowal to the clergy session.
Not exactly clear in this decision is whether or not such "rebuttable presumption" is really sufficient evidence. Perhaps because this is related to entry into ministry rather than having already been voted into membership, the standard of proof is not as high.
It could be argued that even at this level, a fair process hearing is required.
My sense of the bishop's response was to avoid violation of the privacy of a candidate since the only sure proof of "practicing" is to have someone "in the bedroom."
It is not hard for me to imagine if a widower married his widower brother-in-law for all kinds of legal reasons as well as for companionship and mutual care-giving when needed. But sex? They could joke about it on Twitter and tease everybody in the world on Facebook about it, but even discounting ED they could actually not be so inclined. Social media and a marriage license would not be proof of anything sexual in that case.
This decision moves closer to clarifying where the line is drawn on self-avowal and how far a Board may go in their "examination." But there is that space between invasion of privacy and full examination.