On doctrine and discipline?

by Jacob Juncker

In April, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church will be reviewing a series of cases, one of which will look at the ability of clergy persons to “marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.”  This statement, it is suggested, would allow homosexual clergy to marry as long as it is lawful in the state they serve; and, since it is found in our doctrinal standards and constitution, it takes precedent over all other statements found in the Book of Discipline.  This case raises some interesting questions for me about how we practically engage our doctrinal canon.  How should this statement be interpreted in light of our current context?  How do we understand the historical context that informed our doctrine–not just the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith, but also Wesley’s writings?  To what extent should that context influence and temper our current understanding?  I don’t have any answers to these questions, but they are incredibly important to think about.  I mean…

How do we as individuals understand and live out the doctrines of the church? To what extent should we hold one another accountable to our shared belief (doctrine) and practice (discipline)?