February 27, 2019

Church Clarity Responds to UMC General Conference

Church Clarity Team

A Response to the United Methodist Church’s 2019 Special Session of the General Conference:

As an organization, Church Clarity’s goal is to deliver clarity of local church policy. Our team has been awaiting the results of this General Conference in order to understand if and how we need to shift our scoring methodology for United Methodist churches. There are countless questions surrounding “What’s next?”, and we will wait until the dust settles to see what decisions various conferences and churches make.

To provide additional context, our current scoring methodology for United Methodist Churches is as follows:

1. Examine the church website to see if there is evidence of its LGBTQ policy.

a) If there is non-affirming* language, we score the church as non-affirming. If the policy is easy to find, score as Clear. If difficult, score as Unclear.

b) If there is no evidence of church policy whatsoever, we take the denomination’s policy as ‘proxy’ for the church’s policy and score the church as Unclear: non-affirming. Whereas, no evidence of denominational policy would otherwise warrant a score of “Undisclosed.

c) If there is LGBTQ-affirming language but there is no specific policy statement that indicates the clergy of the church will officiate same-gender weddings, we will assume that the church is complying with the denomination’s prohibition against such officiation, and score it as Unclear: non-affirming.

d) If there is LGBTQ-affirming language and a statement indicating that the church will officiate same-gender weddings (aka direct defiance of the denomination’s disciplinary policy), we will score the church as Clear: Affirming.

*We define “affirming” policies as policies that place no restrictions on all people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer within a church’s leadership and liturgy. This means that even in situations where a local congregation practiced full affirmation of LGBTQ people in every policy except for weddings, our scoring definitions would still recognize this scenario as “non-affirming.”

2.  We provide every church that is submitted to our database the opportunity to become “Verified Clear.” This means we send them a brief policy survey which allows clergy to proactively and voluntarily disclose their actively enforced policies.  Once they respond with their answers, regardless of what they answer, they recieve our highest and best score, “Verified Clear,” and their policy answers are then listed in our public database. Below is a screenshot from one of our Verified Clear UMC churches: Urban Village Church.

See more examples here.

Churches can answer: Yes, No, or Actively Discerning to our questions. If they select ‘Actively Discerning,’ they are required to commit to a date of resolution no more than 12 months from the day they submit the survey.

As developments are ongoing with the UMC and as we continue conversations with various leaders throughout UMC churches, we plan on doing the following during the next few weeks:

  1. Reach out to UMC churches who are not Verified Clear and ask them to fill out our policy survey.
  2. Reach out to all UMC churches who are Verified Clear and confirm that their answers to our survey are still accurate. If they want more time in their discernment process, we are granting a special exception to our standard 12 month limit and allow for up to 18 months (6 months more than the standard time-frame).

If you are a leader of a UMC church (or not) and you want your church to become Verified Clear, first make sure your church is submitted to our database (if you get an error message saying the URL is not unique, it means it’s already submitted), and then email us requesting the survey link or if you have additional questions.

- The Church Clarity Leadership Team