This is an update (of sorts) on an ongoing story that I have covered in the past. Another United Methodist pastor is on trial (in a church court) for violating the church’s policies on homosexuality.

The UMC’s official policy is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings. While gay and lesbian people are entirely welcome in our churches (just like every other sinner), avowed homosexuals are prohibited from being in the clergy.

The Washington Post again makes the error of referring to ordained United Methodist pastors as ‘ministers.’ (According the Methodist beliefs, everybody who follows Jesus Christ is called to be a minister of the faith one way or another—at best, you could call pastors ‘ordained ministers’ to set them apart from every other Methodist. Most UMC church bulletins will list church staff [including the pastor], and somewhere in that list it will usually say “Ministers—Everybody in the congregation” or something along those lines.)

In my humble opinion, my views on homosexuality are irrelevant here (although I do generally agree with church policy). The fact is, simply, pastors have to follow the rules. A pastor who breaks the rules cannot be a pastor. If the church had a rule against pastors eating cheese whiz, then no matter how silly I thought that rule was I’d still say pastors should be punished for breaking it.

I say this because the UMC is a democracy. Overarching church policy is set at a general conference that occurs every four years, and representatives to the general conference are selected at each region’s annual conference. Each annual conference’s representation is basically half clergy and half laity (regular people like me) selected from the local churches. If we don’t like the rules, clergy and laity can take action to change them—and in the mean time, the rules must be followed.

Nobody forced Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud to become a member of the United Methodist clergy, and when she chose to be ordained in this denomination she agreed to follow its policies.