Nomination of the Rev. Michael Kinnamon as general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is shaping up as the hottest item on the agenda of the 1-million-member denomination's 1991 General Assembly next month in Tulsa, Okla.
The nomination of Kinnamon, dean of church-related Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky., and a well-known ecumenist, has generated sparks because he advocates full acceptance of homosexuals in the church and refuses to condemn homosexual practice as sinful.
An evangelical group in the church, Disciple Renewal, is leading the charge against Kinnamon's nomination and is supporting an attempt to put on the agenda an item that would bar practicing homosexuals from ordination.
Concerns about homosexuality were heightened by the ordination in May of a member of GLAD--Gay, Lesbian and Affirming Disciples--at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York. A vote at the United Church of Christ's General Synod in July calling on congregations to "affirm, celebrate and embrace" the ministry of homosexuals raised more concerns because the United Church is in partnership with the Disciples.
A procedural debate is likely to accompany the move to bar homosexuals from the ministry, as the church's General Board has declined to put the question on the assembly agenda. Instead, the board is recommending that the subject be addressed as an "item for reflection and research"--in effect postponing a clear-cut decision.
Clifford L. Willis, director of news and information for the denomination, said opponents of the Kinnamon nomination had not suggested the names of alternative candidates for the general minister/president's position by mid-September.
Under the denomination's election rules, only Kinnamon, the official General Board nominee, can be considered for the post at this year's assembly. If Kinnamon fails to obtain the approval of the General Assembly, the nomination process will begin anew.
The election is slated as the first order of business Oct. 28, with results to be announced at the start of the afternoon session.
The reflection and research item on ordination of practicing homosexuals is scheduled to be taken up later that day.
A broader resolution on sexuality, calling on the church to "study the biblical foundations of human sexual expression, practice and lifestyle," is also scheduled to be voted on as a matter of "reflection and research." That vote is expected to take place immediately after the item on homosexual ordination.