Memorandum Number 725


October 28, 1994

Legality of a Definition of "Self-Avowed Practicing Homosexual."


The bishop's decision is reversed and the definition of self-avowed, practicing homosexual adopted by the California-Pacific Annual Conference is illegal.

Statement of Facts

During the 1994 session, the California-Pacific Annual Conference, in plenary session, adopted in pertinent part, the following definition of the phrase "self-avowed practicing homosexual" (Par. 402.2):
A self-avowed practicing homosexual is one who affirms publicly and intends it to be known that she/he engages in or intends to engage in physical sexual behavior with a person of the same gender.

A written request for a decision of law was made of the presiding bishop stating:
In light of Judicial Council Rulings 544 and 702, does the phrase in our definition of "self-avowed practicing homosexual" which reads, in part, ". . . or intends to engage in physical sexual behavior . . . " at an unspecified time in the future constitute the "practicing" of homosexuality as proscribed in paragraph 402.2 in the 1992 Book of Discipline? Or does the phrase in the definition ". . . intends to engage in physical sexual behavior . . , " which as defined may simply be and stop at a romantic focus such as holding hands or hugging someone of the same gender, solely, constitute being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual" as discussed in Judicial Council Decision 702?

After articulating an expanded reading of the phrase "intends to engage in, " as to the first question, the bishop ruled "If the definition is read in these broader, more reasonable terms, the definition is in compliance with the Discipline and Judicial Council Decisions."

As to the second question, the bishop ruled "The question suggests further work on the definition may be required. As it stands, however, the definition does not violate the Discipline."

The bishop's decision is reversed.

Our rationale for this decision is based upon our understanding of the phrase ". . . or intends to engage in . . . " as a future possibility, which may or may not occur, rather than a past or present act. Par. 402.2 and Decisions 544 and 702 contemplate past or present acts, and not future possibilities, which may or may not occur.

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