This is something that I've been thinking about for a while as it pertains to the homosexuality debate within the United Methodist Church:
Recently, we discussed how candidates for the ordained ministry take vows to support the doctrine, Discipline, and liturgy of the UMC while those same candidates oppose categorizing homosexual behavior as sinful. Jayson Dobney argued that candidates should essentially lie in order to get into the system, so that the system can be changed. He justifies this deception under Jesus's command to pay taxes to Caesar that which he was due.
My commentors have unanimously (thus far) rejected this deception as a distortion of the gospel. I agree.
Here's the problem with our conclusion:
In 1956, the General Conference of the Methodist Church authorized the ordination of women. This change did not some suddenly, but after many years of reflection, study, and debate. Many clergymen advocated this change long before it was passed by General Conference.
Now let's say that it's 1954, and a candidate for the ordained ministry takes his vows as an elder in full connection. He promises to uphold the doctrine, Discipline, and liturgy of the UMC. But he advocates the ordination of women.
1. By doing so, is he not violating his vow to uphold the Discipline?
2. And how would this clergyman be any different from a candidate today advocating the normalization of homosexual behavior, and yet pledging to uphold the Discipline?
3. And how can the UMC make changes in the discipline (e.g. the ordination of women, racial desegregation of churches), whether good or ill, if they are not allowed to oppose the Discipline, without violating their vows of ordination?