Bishop Saenz on the Removal of Restrictive Language

Central and North Texas Conference United Methodists,
The grace of God and the peace of Christ Jesus our Lord be with your spirit.

I want to share the results and implications of decisions reached at the General Conference meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After more than 50 years of intense and prayerful debate, the delegates of the General Conference voted in favor of removing the restrictive language in the Book of Discipline that prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing weddings for same-gender couples and prohibits LGBTQ+ partnered individuals from licensing, commissioning, and ordination.

Given this new development, there are some important things I want you to know.

First, pastors have always been responsible for deciding who to marry, considering multiple factors, such as the couple's readiness for the marriage covenant (¶ 340.3a). This has not changed and will remain the case.

Second, the language removed returns the United Methodist Church to a pre-1972 Book of Discipline stance on human sexuality. Removing the restrictive language allows churches to meet the needs of the communities they serve and the people they seek to reach for Jesus Christ.

I know United Methodists who have earnestly searched the Bible have arrived at different opinions on this matter. While Jesus did not directly address the specific topic of same-sex relations or ordinations, his teachings provide a foundation for understanding and guiding our stance on these issues.

Jesus emphasized the primacy of God’s love, inclusion, equity and justice. He taught his followers to love one another unconditionally, without discrimination or judgment.

Applying these principles would affirm the rights and inherent worth of LGBTQ+ individuals, recognize and celebrate their relationships within the church, and allow them to serve in leadership roles based on their gifts and calling.

Each church - whether traditional, centrist or progressive - must adapt to the unique mission field context in which it is situated to ensure that its message and ministry resonate with the needs of the people it seeks to serve. Because of this, I expect the diversity of everyone’s opinions, their integrity of faith, contexts, pastoral care and practices of ministry to be honored and respected.

The delegates also voted in favor of removing prohibitions that prevent Boards of Ordained Ministry from recommending married LGBTQ+ individuals for licensing, commissioning or ordination. As a result, qualified LGBTQ+ individuals, regardless of relationship status with the call to ministry and gifts and graces for ministry, can be recommended by the District and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry for licensing, commissioning and ordination.

These decisions reinforce God’s overarching message of love, acceptance and equality. They also affirm the inherent dignity of the LGBTQ+ community and express support for them, their families and their friends.

I also recognize that these decisions will add complexity to our lives together as United Methodists.

Be assured that the Cabinet and I will continue to work with churches and clergy to ensure the best match of clergy gifts and talents with the needs and contexts of churches and their mission fields. We desire nothing more than for our clergy, laity and congregations to have a vital ministry with people in their mission field rather than one defined by conflict. Your district superintendent is your primary contact on appointment-related issues.

The most important things have not and will not change. Every United Methodist Church will welcome whomsoever seeks to know Christ and grow in love for God and neighbor. Our communion table and our hearts, minds and doors are open.

While the restrictive language in the Book of Discipline has been removed, our shared mission remains the same: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!

We are resolved to be followers of Jesus who seek the loving, just and free world God imagines for all people.

We are resolved to harness and focus our missional efforts on multiplying Jesus’ followers, championing children and youth, maximizing care and healing, pursuing and embracing diversity and telling our story of Christ’s redeeming love.

Let's get to it together! With our combined efforts and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can achieve great things for the glory of God and the blessing of our world!


Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.

North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2024