United Methodists concluded their General Conference last Friday (May 4) without voting on gay clergy or same-sex marriage, a surprising end to a disappointing week for gay activists.
On Thursday, the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., soundly rejected two motions that would have amended the United Methodist Church's book of doctrine and rules, 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 on Thursday 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.
Leading up to General Conference, which convenes every four years, gay advocates had argued that momentum favored their cause.
About 1,200 United Methodists clergy have agreed to break church rules
and marry same-sex couples, surveys show young Christians favor
expanding gay rights and other mainline Protestant denominations have
adopted gay-friendly policies in recent years. But the UMC, which is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in
the country, is shrinking in the U.S. while growing in Africa and Asia,
where conservative views on homosexuality predominate.
Apparently the Methodists decided that better to have no winner and no loser than to face the issue head on... it is thinking like this that means it will surely come up again... and again... and again... We have taught ourselves that truth can change -- only the timing of that change may be in dispute.
I watched the UMC General Conference as closely as I could. While they failed to formally pass pro homosexual legislation they don't appear to have done anything that would restrict the 1200 ministers who have decided to move forward regardless of the policies.
So from what I can tell they will remain "welcoming" in practice in the US while formally on paper at the Worldwide level holding a firm line against it.
I'd be curious if anyone saw it differently
How do we bridge ignorance by opening a creative and compassionate discourse?
The words compassion and empathy get thrown around as much as the words love
and kindness and yet we, as a Christians have not come to a consensus on what
these words mean. Perhaps we will never reach consensus simply due to the relational
nature of the topics, because everyone experiences relationship in their own way. But it
is important to engage in thoughtful and meaningful discourse about these topics. If we
don’t then it is likely the terms will become defined for us by the media, by our traumatic
relationship history, or simply by our ignorance. What I saw was more traumatic re-enactment than compassionate dialogue. St. John the Divine said, Beloved, Love one another...repeating the words of the Master himself.
Compassion and empathy are one thing however, tolerance of unrepentant sin is in and of itself an act of blatant hatred against one's neighbor. How can it possibly be seen as loving (and compassionate and kind)to allow a person to continue down a path knowing full-well that it leads to destruction? All have sinned and are called to repent regardless of the sin. But this is all of course if you believe the Bible's condemnation of same-sex relationships as well as the consequences of unforgiven sin. If God's Word is taken off the table, then there really isn't much to discuss.
It is a strange sort of "voting" where you vote on a proposal until it passes. So it can fail to be approved many times, but once approved, those who favor it will never allow another vote.
"But it is important to engage in thoughtful and meaningful discourse about these topics."
Uh huh. What if the Methodists allowed homosexual clergy and homosexual "marriages"? Then would it be important and meaningful to discuss abolishing such practices?
If not for the conservative delegates from the African churches, the pro-homosexual legislation would have passed. Interesting that the UMC in the USA continues to decline, while the UMC in Africa is enjoying explosive growth in numbers. What could account for the growth in Africa, especially when all UMC congregations worldwide belong to the same organization?
The Methodist clergy will practice a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As the UMC has altar and pulpit fellowship with the ELCA, what does that tell us regarding Methodist theology and its adherence to traditional Christian values. No one at the convention questioned the UMC's ties to the ELCA. Why was this the case?
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