Could Louie Giglio Be Ordained As An Elder In The UMC?

By now many of you may be familiar with the brouhaha over Louie Giglio’s invitation to and subsequent withdrawl from from offering the invocation at President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony later this month.

Giglio was originally invited to give the prayer because of his leadership in the fight against human trafficking.  However, controversy arose when audio was released from a 1995ish sermon in which he referred to homosexual behavior as sin.  (Or, as United Methodists officially say it, “incompatible with Christian teaching.”)

As a result of the rising tide of opposition within the inaugural team, Giglio stepped aside earlier this week.  The invocation will now come from Luis Leon, an Episcopalian priest with more progressive views when it comes to homosexual practice. 

You can read Huffington Post’s narrative of the story here.

And Al Mohler’s provocative essay under the “I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that” title of “The Giglio Imbroglio”  here.

And finally, Scott McKnight’s post-politcial & non-partisan piece asking whether Giglio should have ever said “yes” to the invitation in the first place here.

But those commentaries, as interesting as they are, are slightly beyond the scope of this particular post.

I want to ask the most pressing question of them all:  could Louie Giglio, champion of human freedom around the world and preacher extraordinaire here in the States, be ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church if he would persist in declaring that homosexual intercourse is outside God’s will for his people?

(Now: I know he trends Calvinist and that alone might disqualify him from joining our ranks.  But again, that’s not today’s subject.)

I ask my question because, after all, one of our own bishops has encouraged ordained clergy to defy church law and perform same-sex weddings.  You can read that ordination sermon here

I ask that question also because one entire jurisdiction within our connection has issed a “Statement Of Gospel Obedience” in which it promises to behave as if parts of our Book Of Discipline simply do not exist  and another jurisdiction quickly followed suit.

I ask because the pastor of a high-profile First United Methodist Church calls Methodism’s adherence to 2,000 years of received wisdom regarding celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage “wrong, stupid, and evil.” 

As some of you have experienced personally, any candidate for ordination within the UMC has to go through a labyrinth of tests, essays, interviews, assessments, and sermons.  The process begins at the congregational level, then moves to the District level, and finally to the Granddaddy Of Them All, the Annual Conference Board Of Ordained Ministry.  These boards, comprised primarily of selected clergy in the  Annual Conference who have themselves been ordained as Elders, decide the ordination fate of each candidate.  Those who are approved as Elder receive, for lack of a better word, tenure in the system:  an all-but-guaranteed lifetime employment as a pastor somewhere in that Annual Conference.  My own ordination as an Elder happened way back in 1992.

But here’s what you need to know: the theological perspectives of the Boards of Ordained Ministry in the different Annual Conferences vary widely depending on geography.  Those Boards out West and up North, predictably, lean far left.  Those in the deep South trend more conservative.

So the quick answer to the question of Louie Giglio’s suitability for ordination is probably this:  in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, no.  In Alabama-West Florida, yes.  In my own Western North Carolina, maybe.

But aren’t those differing answers part of the problem?  Isn’t the defiance of an entire section of the country towards the rest of the connection evidence that “United” is a word with little muscle and less meaning?  As if theology, doctrine, and ethics were a matter of “you say ‘tomato’ and I say ‘tomahto'”?

Until we come up with a consistent answer to the Louie Giglio question — and as you might suspect, I would want the answer to be “yes!” —  I think we may well be wrestling with some other questions.

Such as:  will the United Methodist Church still exist in the year 2050?