Why the Methodists did what they did

We covered the demonstration following rejection of any official accommodation of conscience for clergy and laity in the Methodist Church who are supporters of marriage equality last week. But there’s more to what happened than just the demonstration. The Conference decided, after the votes that would have officially admitted a diversity of opinion to cancel all subsequent votes on issues touching on the same subject.


Episcopal News Service has a good analysis (with links to source material) of the whole sequence of events:

“On May 3, the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., soundly rejected two motions that would have amended the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which calls the practice of homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’ After those votes, protesters flooded the convention floor, briefly shutting down the conference.

Conference planners, evangelical leaders and gay and lesbian advocates met later that day and determined that there was little use in holding additional contentious debates on homosexuality, according to several sources. Proposals to ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex unions held little chance of passing, the parties agreed, and so were pushed to the back of the agenda, essentially assuring that they would not be debated.

‘Leaders of the demonstration were told that the legislation was postponed to avoid more harm to LGBT people and their supporters,’ the Love Your Neighbor Coalition said in a statement. ‘The United Methodist Church had an opportunity to offer love, grace, and hope,’ the coalition said. ‘Sadly, we did not take that opportunity.’

The UMC’s policy remains that ministers cannot marry same-sex couples and churches cannot host same-sex weddings. Clergy in same-sex relationships are likewise banned.”

More here.

The Methodist Conference went on to rule unconstitutional all of the proposed changes to their structure (previously covered here). Not a good a good outcome for many in the US Methodist Church on either account.

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22 Comments
  1. E Sinkula

    The whole conference was a huge disappointment from what I have heard from both conservatives and liberals in the UMC.

    Eric

  2. Peter Pearson

    Jesus’ saying about spitting the lukewarm from his mouth just flashed through my mind just now for some reason.

    Frankly I get it. I get why they did not want to move forward but I also believe with all my heart that this is the civil rights issue of our times and a real test of our willingness to take a stand for what is right and for those who have less power than the majority. Christians often fail to do the right thing in very public ways. No wonder we are not inspiring people.

  3. Vicki Bozzola

    I did not read the entire article, nor do I plan to. For many years (since GC 2003?), I have become more and more disillusioned with our church; both sides are obsessed with the issue of homosexuality, so the real work of the kingdom gets lost in relatively insignificant political questions. It’s clear to me that the laity in our church are far to the right of the clergy, where the real power lies. Perhaps the lay people in the Methodist Church have a stronger voice than in the Episcopal Church.

  4. Peter Pearson

    And yes, I understand that they too are dealing with a global church in which people are at different places in terms of this issue. What to do?

  5. Vicki Bozzola

    Peter, I would suggest setting aside the issue du jour and begin to rebuild our declining membership–declining in large part because of all this hoopla. Most of my best friends have fled to Anglican parishes or to the Roman Catholics.

  6. Jim Naughton

    Vicki, if you could manage to be a little less insulting to LGBT people, I’d appreciate it. They probably don’t think of themselves as the issue de jour, and may be under the impression that including all believers in our Christian communities actually is part of the real work of the kingdom.

  7. Vicki Bozzola

    Jim, sloganeering like yours is what I fear most–what, in fact, has me thinking that my long-time devotion to the Democratic Party is forcing me into bed with some very objectionable characters. Do I really want to identify myself with the group that favors freedom of speech–except for objectionable speech? I teach English on a college campus, and it is the narrow-minded left wing that causes me the most consternation. What happened to the 60’s, when academics were really free?

  8. Vicki Bozzola

    Furthermore, I never made a single mention of whom to include in our Christian communities. I have close friends and dear students who are gay–and I proudly voted NO on North Carolina’s Amendment One. I just don’t welcome politics in the pulpit on either side of the issue.

  9. Jim Naughton

    Not sure you know what sloganeering is if you applied it to a comment that contains nothing as catchy or concise as a slogan. If you don’t think that your comments denigrate the importance of including LGBT people in our communities, I urge you to read them again.

    Quoting you here: “both sides are obsessed with the issue of homosexuality, so the real work of the kingdom gets lost in relatively insignificant political questions.” And” I would suggest setting aside the issue du jour …”

    If you, as an English teacher, would like to explain to me how I am to avoid the conclusion that you just don’t think including LGBT people in our communities was worth all of the fuss, please do.

  10. Peter Pearson

    My life, as a gay man, is not the cause of the day as if it were a fad. It is my life and having the freedom to marry someone I love is not a fad either. It is, in my estimation, precisely the work of the Kingdom. Until we are all free, none of us is free.

    I am so glad I am an Episcopalian.

  11. Matty Zaradich

    If you’re looking to improve declining membership, you will hardly do so by avoiding issues that are at the heart of people’s very lives. For all of your friends who left The Episcopal Church over the “issue du jour”, there are many LGBTQ folks like me that have come for the first time to TEC and have been welcomed with open arms.

    So sorry our lives have got in the way of peaceful Sundays for you. We’ll be sure to not be so annoyingly insistent about equality (this “hoopla” as you call it) in the future.

    I agree with Peter. I am so glad to be an Episcopalian, after leaving the Roman church. Never before did I realize how wonderful being a part of religious community could be. The impending full(er) inclusion of LGBTQ people within and without of the Church is, as Bishop Gene Robinson suggested, “God’s dream coming true before our very eyes”.

  12. Ann Fontaine

    Our church is gaining members because of the policies of the RC and Presbyterians (the local ones) and Methodists. It is not an issue it is lives – the lives of their children, themselves, their friends.

  13. Nicole Porter

    I agree with Vicki. The last thing I want is a good church like this to turn into nothing more than a PAC. I have limited participation in my parish as it is besides weekly Mass.

  14. Gregory Orloff

    What, pray tell, is “the real work of the kingdom,” from which “an issue du jour” might distract?

    From what Jesus said, it seems the real work of the kingdom is, in a nutshell:

    To love God.

    To love your neighbors.

    To love your enemies.

    To treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

    Or as the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer puts it:

    “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

    How we treat LGBTQ folk, among many others, as followers of Christ Jesus seems pretty integral to all that, rather than a peripheral “issue du jour” that distracts from “the real work of the kingdom.” Some might complain that “harping on almsgiving for the poor” and “not being materialistic” grates on people’s nerves and drives them away, but hey, that’s the gospel…

  15. IT

    My wife and many others left the Roman church and came to TEC precisely because of its welcome to LGBT people. Believe me, we would love to stop being “issue du jour” and we are NOT the ones making an issue of our sexuality. Fortunately, no one else in our parish is, either.

    I wonder if Vicki or Nicole have ever gotten to know any gay Episcopalians and their partners, enough to see them as people who want to be part of and build something, rather than as the Other. Given the negative tone that comes across in their remarks towards LGBT people in the church, I think probably not. That’s sad.

    In 20 or 30 years, people will be ashamed of this battle to Keep Gays Out, the way they are ashamed of racial segregation and real estate covenants against Jews. But in 20 or 30 years time, many of us will be dead.

    Susan Forsburg

  16. Elizabeth Kaeton

    The UMC also voted, unanimously and in legislative committee, to rescind their membership in RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice). Fortunately, it never made it to the floor of Conference for a vote so we have the UMC at the RCRC table for four more years.

    It’s also grossly unfair – and not even vaguely racist – to blame what happened at General Conference on the increasingly global nature of the UMC.

    Can you say “Tea Party”?

  17. Nicole Porter

    Actually Susan, I know quite a few, including a priest here in LA who is gay and partnered. They’re very nice people,however, my personal beliefs about homosexuality remain intact. I’m sure lots of people who have traditional beliefs such as my own know homosexuals personally as I do. It doesn’t mean that their viewpoints will change.

  18. Peter Pearson

    Nicole, I wonder if you have any idea what it feels like to have your life spoken of as if it were an issue rather than your life? I’m not a science experiment nor is it a question for debate in the abstract. It’s my life and I doubt you’ve ever had to deal with other people assuming to decide what your life is about or worth or deserving of and I hope you never will have to because it’s pretty awful. Empathy seems like something Christians should just get though and I don’t hear it in this conversation. That’s sad.

  19. Matty Zaradich

    In the spirit of transparency, you should enumerate your personal beliefs here so we can all have a fuller understanding of exactly what you mean when you, as many do, attempt to “however” such “nice” people away, in honor of your deeply held beliefs.

    I’m just wondering to where you wish to “however” LGBTQ people away. Hell?

    I’m also confounded on your use of “traditional”. What do you actually mean? How far back do we go in history to find the genesis of your “traditional” beliefs? Shall we go to Leviticus? If so, I beg you to please check the fabric count on the shirt you’re currently wearing– if it’s made of more than one fiber, do burn it forthwith, and avoid eternal damnation, for indeed “you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed” (Lev. 19:19).

  20. Matty Zaradich

    …pardon, rather “nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials.” (Lev. 19:19)

    You get the picture.

  21. E Sinkula

    Yawn…..

    Nicole and Vicki: you have traditional understandings about sexuality – we get it. Super.

    Everyone else (including me): you support same sex marriage and wish for more inclusive stances for us GLBT members – we get it.

    Let’s move on for God’s sake (literally).

    Eric

  22. Nicole Porter

    Peter, Would you rather someone lie about how they feel to your face and do something entirely different behind your back? People in person were overwhelmingly against Amendment One in NC, yet it passed with the same percentage the Methodist struck down the Book of Discipline changes: 61% to 39%. People are lying about how they feel apparently.

    Matty, Orthodox Jews still hold to the 613 laws. I’m not a Jew. What do you say to those who actually do??

    Eric, I’m speaking on the subject just as everyone else is. The church isn’t monolithic in thought and never will be. Just as people will express their support, there will be people expressing their opposition.

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