by Rev. John Elford (Mary Ann Barclay's pastor), an email to his church
By now, most of you are aware that Mary Ann's path to ordination was stalled earlier this month. She finally met with our SWTX Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) and did not receive enough votes to move forward to the next level. She continues as a candidate for ministry and, of course, she continues here at University UMC.
I was not at the BOM meetings, and I have no inside information about the decision-making process or the voting, which was by secret ballot. I did read Mary Ann's theological exam, I heard her sermon, as did many of you on Ash Wednesday here at UUMC, and Mary Ann and I have debriefed the interview in great detail. I've also served on the BOM, most recently as the Chair of Exams and Interviews and I've read dozens of papers over the years. What I can tell you with confidence is that Mary Ann should have been passed on to the next level. She's is one of the finest young candidates for ministry that I've met in my time in ministry. That she wasn't, means, in my opinion, that the vote taken was not about her qualifications for ministry but about something else.
Why didn't the BOM simply name the elephant in the room and say that they could not in good conscience ordain her because she's a lesbian in a partnered relationship? I really don't know. And so instead, they chose to find her theologically lacking.
I'm deeply disappointed in my colleagues over this outcome. I don't believe that the truth was told. I believe that the BOM owes Mary Ann an apology and that she ought to be told the real reason why she was not moved forward on the path to ordination. If there were theological problems with Mary Ann's work, it was not the quality of her work, but that her theology was too progressive.
I'm not sure that if I or other pastors on our staff, or any of the pastors who are related to our Charge Conference, had appeared before the current BOM, we would have been passed on to ordination. Much of the UMC has lost touch with that great "catholic spirit" that has marked the Methodist movement from its inception, and theological diversity is a vanishing reality.
I say all of this with a heavy heart, but also with great hope. I truly believe University UMC and other UM Reconciling churches are riding the crest of a great wave. The wave is far from shore and it's gathering momentum every day. And it's undergirded by the all-embracing, all-welcoming, all-inclusive love of God. God continues to break into our lives from the future, bringing grace upon grace, transformation and real hope. Thanks be to God!
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