Skip to comments.United Methodist Conference Tightens Stance on Homosexuality
Posted on 05/05/2004 10:58:39 AM PDT by WVNan
Business wise, It has been quite a day here at General Conference. It was announced early in the morning that our entire day would be focused on the petitions and legislation relating to homosexuality. No matter what side of the fence you sit on as you think about this particular issue if you have a love for God and a deep and abiding love for your neighbor, this is the kind of day that breaks your heart. If you love the church and its people, today is a day that hurts because the church we love and the body we cherish as a place that promotes peace and joy, at times, causes hurt and pain.
As all of you know, this subject stirs strong emotions on both sides. Sometimes those emotions get so strong you forget the feelings of someone who thinks differently than you do. Often times at home, it's easy to talk about those on the "other side" because you seldom have to look at them and see their faces. At General Conference, the faces sit around you. They serve on a Legislative Committee with you. They sing with you, pray with you, cry with you. Then, in the midst of the debate, you discover that they think different than you do. Yet, you have come to love them and they you. In a speech they take a stand, . . . and so do you, . . . but the stance is different. Yet, in the midst of it all, we love one another in honor of the one who first loved us.
Four years ago in Cleveland the debate over homosexuality was heated, radical, irrational, and threatening. A person threatens to jump off a balcony, several others are arrested, and the convention center is in chaos. Four years later, the debate and the demonstrations were far different. There was a spirit of concern, an attempt to listen to one another, and love one another. Most knew what the outcome would be and so it was a day of confirmation of what we thought would happen and a grace to allow those who feel otherwise have their chance to share their pain and their concern.
Today's decisions were centered first on Paragraph 161g ("Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all.") After much debate on this subject this paragraph was changed to read (I will underline the changes): "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers the practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community." This addition passed 61%/39%. What this decision in effect did was strengthen the stance on homosexuality because it removes the word "although" and clearly states that The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality.
We then turned to paragraph 304.3: "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Again, after much debate and the submission of a "minority report," the following changes were made. It now reads, "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Once again these changes give a more "declaratory" tone to the Book of Discipline. These changes passed, 72% to 28%.
We then moved to paragraph 332.6: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." There were several petitions that would have allowed same-sex marriages, ceremonies and unions. Each of them were defeated. The average breakdown of the vote was 82% to 18%.
Finally we moved to paragraph 2702 (Chargeable Offenses). The current Book of Discipline states that chargeable offenses (among others) are: a) immorality; b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching. After a long debate and an alternative "Minority Report," the following additions were made: a) immorality, including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage and b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies. After much debate and many suggested corrections, the above changes were approved 50.6%/49.4% (455 in favor/445 opposed).
So, after a long day of debate and emotion, we closed this day having made our current disciplinary stance even stronger than it currently reads. Many of us felt coming into General Conference that there would be some strong moves to make our discipline more "declaratory" in light of the Dammann Trial. Those feelings were right. The church decided today to become more decisive in how our Discipline reads and is enforced. Many came to General Conference with some doubts about where we stood and how our Discipline was to be interpreted. We will leave with those doubts and interpretations much clearer and stronger. After beginning at 8:00 a.m. we closed the Book of Discipline and our workbooks at 10:00 p.m. The closing prayer was shared. And we left. Unlike the other nights, no music played. No videos were shown. No songs were sung. Everyone, in respect for one another and the emotions of a long day, left in silence. A time to process. A time to pray. A time to move ahead to other issues facing the church. Today, the church acted. The Journey Continues, . . . Tom
That's ok, I can't spell intundra but I often do doubles.