AUSTIN, TX — A United Methodist Bishop for the San Antonio area has reinstated the candidacy of a lesbian woman who is seeking to be ordained in the denomination as a deacon.
Mary Ann Kaiser serves as the youth director at University United Methodist Church in Austin. She initially became a candidate for ordination in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference in 2008, during which time she not living as a homosexual.
Kaiser later moved to Texas, where she obtained a Master of Divinity at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and became active in the district chapter of the denomination.
In April of this year, Kaiser revealed at a district meeting that she was involved in a lesbian relationship. She has since traveled to Maryland to “wed” her partner Annanda Barclay.
Following the initial meeting, the district committee voted 6-2 to allow her candidacy to proceed, but this summer, a church board recommended that it she be removed from the list. The United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from becoming ordained as ministers in the denomination.
Kaiser’s pastor, John Elford, then made a motion to reinstate her candidacy, but was rejected. Elford continued pressing the matter, stating that Kaiser had not been fully evaluated as required by the denomination.
Southwest Texas Conference Bishop James A. Dorff originally ruled the issue as moot, but the matter was sent back to him this fall for response. On Thursday, Dorff reinstated Kaiser’s candidacy, agreeing with Elford that she had not been fully examined.
“The Austin District Committee, following BOD (Book of Discipline) processes, certified Ms. Kaiser and recommended her to the Board of Ordained Ministry for Commissioning,” he wrote. “It then became the board’s responsibility to fully examine her fitness for ministry, including written materials and interview … This was not done in this case. ”
“The Board of Ordained Ministry rendered a judgment but did not follow the process,” Dorff stated. “Therefore, the candidate is entitled to full examination by the Board.”
Kaiser issued a statement following the decision expressing her approval of her reinstatement.
“I find hope in the fact that this wrong is being corrected and I am eager to continue on this relational, Spirit driven process with the Board,” she wrote. “I rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit to illuminate my understanding of faith, my call, and my place in The United Methodist Church.”
Reaction to Kaiser’s reinstatement has been mixed.
“God bless the bishop! He made the right decision in allowing this faithful woman to continue her call to candidacy,” one commenter wrote. “I think this is a sign that the United Methodist church is changing and that the 15 conferences that voted for gay marriage are indeed making a difference.”
“No, No, No! She mustn’t be ordained,” another wrote. “The Bible, which is the Word of God, on which the church was founded and is itself the foundation of the Christian church, clearly forbids homosexuality. Period.”
Others noted that no woman is permitted to serve as a deacon according 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
Photo: Reconciling Ministries