You’ve been warned.
I am not a delegate to General Conference in Portland, nor was I eligible to be (ordination in less than a month….BOOM!). However, I am a huge Methonerd. What I mean by that is that I have watched the live stream of General Conference since it began last week, have followed along with legislation being considered and worshiped right alongside the delegates via the stream. No, I’m not a delegate, so what I say here matters very little in the grand scheme of things. But I do love Jesus and The United Methodist Church. The UMC welcomed me with open arms when I first began to follow Jesus. I have served as a Pastor in the UMC for the last nine years and…as I gleefully pointed out earlier…I am to be ordained as an Elder in Full Connection at our Annual Conference in less than a month. Because of my deep love for The United Methodist Church, and uneasiness about some of the action taken by the General Conference today, I decided I would rant. 🙂
If you are a Methonerd, you will find some of what I post to be redundant to what you already know. But I also know that there are those who will read this who aren’t up on all the metho-lingo, so let me give some background.
First, General Conference is the only body that can speak for the entire United Methodist Church. It is a decision-making body that gathers every four years to make decisions that will advance our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Pastors and laypeople from every annual conference around the world are elected and sent as delegates.
For several decades, there has been growing division in our denomination around the issue of human sexuality. The United Methodist Church officially holds that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” This has caused division and hurt in our denomination between those who affirm this language and those who wish for a more inclusive Church.
The issue came before this General Conference as well. Yesterday, a request was made for our Bishops to bring forward a plan for a suggested way forward that the delegates could either accept or reject. Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the Council brought the plan this morning. You can find the full text of the Bishops’ proposal here, some of the highlights are as follows. The Bishops suggested that:
-General Conference 2016 defer all discussion on human sexuality.
-The discussion of human sexuality be referred to a special commission selected by the Council of Bishops. This commission would study, examine and make recommendations for a way forward from the current deadlock.
-If the commission finishes their work before the 2020 General Conference, there could be a specially called session of the General Conference to vote on the recommendations of the commission.
After the Council of Bishops presented their plan, a motion was made by Rev. Adam Hamilton to accept their recommendation. His motion was debated and was defeated by a vote of 438-393.
A short time after this was defeated, another delegated moved to accept the Bishops’ plan. It was ruled that his motion was somehow different from the one offered by Rev. Hamilton (I’m still not sure how that’s possible). This time, the plan offered by our Bishops was approved 428-405. Barring any parliamentary challenge or ruling by the Judicial Council, it would appear that this is the plan that will be used.
So basically, the can gets kicked down the road for another 2-3 years so we can talk more about the issue. I seriously feel like the Titanic is sinking and we’re busy rearranging the deck chairs. I believe the time for talking has passed. This was the moment for the General Conference to act, and it slipped by. I have dear friends on both sides of the human sexuality debate…my newsfeed contained posts from conservatives, moderates, and progressives. Frankly, I didn’t see very many who were happy with the action taken by the General Conference. We wanted action. Either action that affirmed the orthodox position that has been held by the Church since 1972 or action that made a way for full inclusion in our Church. Folks…we didn’t get any of that!
We’ve tried study commissions in the past (1976, 1980, 1988) and we’re still terribly divided over this issue. I fear that we cannot endure 2-3 more years of business as usual. Our witness to the world hangs in the balance. Our Church hangs in the balance. I’m sitting here wondering if the Church I am about to be ordained in will even exist by the time the commission is done with their work. I desperately want us to stay together, so let’s find a way to make it happen NOW. The time for talking is over. No matter what happens, I believe that there can still be a vital expression of Wesleyan Christianity with or without The United Methodist Church….but my heart yearns for us to stay united. I put my trust in Jesus Christ who is Lord of the Church to lead and guide us into the future, no matter what it may hold.
That’s my hope. I still sit here tonight, hoping and praying that the action taken by General Conference today will be reconsidered before Friday. Come what may, the time for action is NOW.