The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that Rev. Anna Blaedel, former director of the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa, will take unpaid leave over a settlement with the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church after being accused of violating church doctrine by being a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual.”
Blaedel has called herself an “unrepentant queer.”
The United Methodist Church has been engaged in a moral debate over homosexuality for some time. This past February, the delegates of the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church met in a special session in St. Louis, Mo. They were presented with two plans presented by a commission convened to discuss potential changes to the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline.
One plan called the “One Church Plan” allowed individual churches and regional conferences to decide on whether or not to ordain LGBTQ clergy or conduct same-sex marriages.
The other plan, called the “Traditional Plan” stated that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The traditional plan passed by 53 percent of the vote.
A complaint lodged by John Lomperis, the United Methodist Director with The Institute of Democracy and Religion located in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2018 led to the Iowa Conference Committee on Investigation, on May 20, 2019, to charge Rev. Blaedel “for being a self-avowed practicing homosexual in violation of Paragraphs 2702.1.b and 304.e of the Book of Discipline.
Paragraph 2702.1 is the process in which a pastor can be charged. It reads:
1. A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶ 370), local pastor, clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in (¶ 2702.4) with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse; i) sexual misconduct including the use or possession of pornography, (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; (k) racial or gender discrimination; or (l) fiscal malfeasance.
Paragraph 304 deals with qualifications for ordination. The particular charge is that Blaedel does not “(c)ommunicate persuasively the Christian faith in both oral and written form.”
The charges against Blaedel were going to go to church trial. She instead asked for a “just resolution” which allowed her to avoid a trial and instead seek a settlement with the Iowa Conference though mediation.
The “just resolution” agreement demonstrates regardless of the February vote that those involved in the “just resolution” at the Iowa Conference are still morally confused.
Under the agreement Blaedel agreed to “request a Voluntary Personal Leave of Absence between sessions.” She will continue to request that leave until she makes the decision to come off the leave.
The purpose of the leave is “for personal healing, and for discerning a livable future and alternatives to remaining a member of the Iowa Conference and The United Methodist Church—the conference and denomination to which Rev. Blaedel was called, ordained, and appointed, but which seems to hold no future for them and their ministry.”
(Blaedel uses the pronouns “they, them, and their,” but this writer and Caffeinated Thoughts will not because doing so does not make biological, biblical, or grammatical sense.)
According to The Gazette, but not spelled out in the agreement, Blaedel can keep her ordination credentials and is allowed to continue to lead the Wesley Center on a volunteer basis.
In a statement to The Gazette she said, ““Today, we are naming together the truth that it is not currently possible for me to continue my ministry in the context of the Iowa Annual Conference, nor the (United Methodist Church). I had hoped for a different conclusion to the story. … I am no longer willing to subject my body and soul and life to this particular violence.”
Expecting that clergy hold to what the Bible says about sexuality is now considered violence.
To add to this moral confusion, the preamble of the “just resolution”agreements asks, “What harm has been done?”
The agreement answers, “In his complaint Mr. John Lomperis does not name any harm that has been done to him by Rev. Anna Blaedel. Neither has the Iowa Conference identified harm that has been done to it by Rev. Blaedel.”
No harm has been done? How about to the Gospel? Denying the authority of scripture on sexuality and marriage isn’t doing harm? Harm wasn’t done when Bladel has led countless people astray during the course of her time with the Iowa Conference?
No, according to the agreement, the harm was suffered by Blaedel, I kid you not.
“However, the complaint by Mr. Lomperis against Rev. Blaedel, and the subsequent actions of the Iowa Conference in handling that complaint, have resulted in harm to Rev. Blaedel specifically and directly, as well as to LGBTQIA+ persons and the broader Church, in material and spiritual ways. We recognize that these years under complaint have been damaging to Rev. Blaedel’s life and ministry, affecting them in countless and perhaps irreparable ways, including physically, spiritually, professionally, vocationally, and financially,” the agreement states.
“In addition, we recognize that the harm to Rev. Blaedel is only one manifestation of the historical and ongoing harm done to LGBTQIA+ persons through the policies and practices of the Iowa Conference and The United Methodist Church. For over forty years, discriminatory policies and oppressive practices have kept us from being a faithful church, have caused alienation and deep division, and have limited our ability to witness to and embody a Gospel of good news, restorative justice, and liberation,” it continued.
In a written statement, Iowa Conference Bishop Laurie Haller said, “The United Methodist Church is broken because we are still not able to honor our differences around human sexuality.”
She made the commitment to attempt to avoid church trials over LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages.
“My friends, with humility and grace, it is time to throw open the doors of the church for everyone. I am the episcopal leader of Iowa, but I am also a pastor to the laity and clergy in the Iowa Conference. The complaint process in our Book of Discipline, including trials, may be necessary, but it does not always facilitate reconciliation and justice. In fact, church trials can be destructive and serve to divide rather than heal,” Haller wrote.
“Therefore, as we move forward toward the 2020 General Conference, I have made a commitment to avoid, if at all possible, the processing of complaints, charges, and trials related to officiating at same gendered weddings and LGBTQIA identity and credentialing, and I will always seek just resolution first,” she added. “I ask that both laity and clergy exercise restraint in filing complaints at this time.”
Then Haller also called Blaedel a “trailblazer.”
The agreement also states that Haller will meet with conference leaders and the purpose of the that meeting is to envision “a conference-wide plan for redressing harm and injustice and, in turn, seeking reconciliation and liberation for and with LGBTQIA+ persons, including a plan to offer guidance, repentance, and healing for churches in the Iowa Conference.”
It’s clear that the Iowa Conference has abandoned the scriptures and the Gospel. Scripture is clear. Homosexuality is a sin. God created human beings male and female. Marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman.
By going down this path the Iowa Conference continues to lead its members astray. They seek unity where there can be none.