An expert on polity in the United Methodist Church says a favorable decision by officials in a church discipline case involving an openly homosexual pastor shows that conflict avoidance does not work in the denomination.
According to news reports, the Methodist Committee on Investigation, last month, decided not to certify charges against Ohio pastor David Meredith of "being a self-avowed practicing homosexual" and of "immorality."
He was charged with "disobedience," but the pastor who "married" his partner of 30 years in 2016 claimed victory in the case.
John Lomperis, director of the UM Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, says it's not enough to have a clear, on-paper standard for marriage and sexual morality, nor enough to have a clear process to remove leaders who violate those standards.
"You've had a number of pastors and leaders that have been too intimidated to teach consistently and clearly on God's will for sexuality," Lomperis observes. "And you've had leaders that have not been willing to have ounce of preventions more than pounds of cure for accountability early on."
In any of our Protestant churches, Lomperis goes on to say, there's nothing that can be done to permanently guarantee "faithfulness" to biblical teaching.
"Other than having a willingness," he says, "to be constantly vigilant against the devil's attempts to infiltrate the church with unfaithfulness."