Instructing the Board of Ordained Ministry
Northern Illinois Annual Conference had a Board of Ordained Ministry that asserted it would no longer examine the sex life of its candidates for ministry, much as its New York colleagues had done. As happened in New York, someone in Northern Illinois asked much the same questions of the bishop, calling their questions "a request for a ruling of law."
The conference had just voted down a motion requiring the Board to fulfill its minimum requirements of examining candidates for ministry with respect to "celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage." The request was made and the bishop ruled it was moot and hypothetical.
I happen to agree with the bishop. There was no specific case being referred to. And the request would not change anything since the Board was under the Discipline and their resolution was not mentioned in the request. Even though everyone in the plenary realized that the request was related to the Board's stated policy, it should have been explicit in the request.
The request was moot and hypothetical in another way. It was really a poorly drafted request for a declaratory decision which the bishop had no authority to answer. Only a declaratory decision can come from questions that deal with a prospective action. And there is no evidence in the statement of facts about the case indicating someone had been snuck through the Board's examination process who was a self-avowed practicing homosexual.
I am inclined to think the Council members hit an emotional wall and were on a roll about the Discipline being taken seriously on homosexual issues. Closer to exhaustion after sorting through the Oliveto case, the Council may have had a loss of acuity. (I am projecting here. My own endurance would have been gone long before that if I had been on the Council.)
In some respect, the decision was a reiteration of the New York decision and not really much worse than a warning to the Northern Illinois Board to stick with the Discipline. And like Decision 1343, it too leaves space between "full examination" and invasion of privacy and does not quite resolve the need for fair process if there is some evidence that homosexuality might be involved.
The Council again asserts that a candidate "should be treated fairly and denial of entry must be based upon the evidence received from the results of the full examination." They do not quite insist on Fair Process in this decision either. But they are leaning in that direction.